***Author Note***

Hello there and welcome to another chapter of Meshii.

Last chapter, we have to see the results of Naruto's training, even if he had barely shown much of what he can do. So far, Naruto was not truly tested, but he will eventually. I have decided to take his missions to a different level, compared to my other stories. This Naruto is more of a sneaky individual, preferring to strike more from the shadows instead of facing the enemy head on. Therefore, it will be hard for anyone to push him far enough as to stop hiding and face the enemy. Of course, he is not invincible nor is he untraceable. Dojutsu user could still see him if the user knows where to look. Not much further to speak about, so let us proceed with the next arc.

Chapter 20 – Omen

Beta: Kyuubi123

Located in the center of a mass desert, the Hidden Village in the Sand was protected by the desert's constant sandstorms. This marvelous force of nature granted the village protection against armies, giving that only a few shinobi had the strength and skill to get past the sandstorm, not to mention a good sense of direction. Even without the sandstorm, knowing your way through the desert is already an impressive feat. In order to reach the hidden village in the sand and also get through the powerful sandstorms, one needed to either be a local resident or someone who had already been there before numerous times. The former was the case for two individuals wearing black robes with red clouds and bamboo hats. The one from the left was perhaps the most intriguing individual, seeing as unlike his partner, his footprint was actually similar to a tire track.

"Ne, Sasori-danna, it is taking too long for us to reach the damn village, hmm." The taller one named Deidara said as he could only see sand in front of him and nothing more.

"This sandstorm works to our advantage, not allowing them to sense our approach. You understand what you need to do?"

Sasori spoke in a rough metallic voice, indicating his irritation at having to returm to his former village once more.

Deidara nodded as they continued on their track towards the Hidden Village in the Sands. They had time, however, as the plan involved capturing the jinchuuriki at night when it would be easier to sneak inside. From what they knew of their target, the Jinchuuriki became very skilled throughout the last three years. Deidara would have to use everything in his disposal to capture Sabaku no Gaara without killing him. It was no secret that the jinchuuriki was unstable, due to the nature of the seal, however according to their source; Gaara has learned how to keep the beast in check. Deidara, though, could not help but feel the adrenalin pumping through his chakra coils at the prospect of fighting a jinchuuriki, and a strong one, if their sources were true.

***In Sunagakure***

It was night time in Sunagakure as the Godaime Kazekage and former elite jounin Baki was busy going through some paperwork about the missions performed by his subordinates. Ever since the newly formed alliance with Konoha, Suna had prospered quite a bit under the eyes of the Wind Daimyo as the man had once more chosen Suna instead of Konoha for missions. Even if forty percent of the Daimyo's revenue was to be transferred to Konoha's vaults as per the agreement, Baki knew that the alternative wouldn't be the best course of action. Simply saying 'no' to Konoha after what they had done would put the entire village at risk of suffering the wrath of the strongest hidden village of the elemental nations. Certainly, Suna didn't possess the man power to hold their own in case of an invasion. Thus, the best possible option was to accept the Godaime Hokage's quite gentle offer. Not to mention the fact that from time to time the villages would perform joint assignments, which allowed for the people of Suna to remedy their actions somewhat.

As Baki finished the last report and was about to leave the office for the night, he saw a thin line of sand enter through his doorway, before the village jinchuuriki appeared kneeling at his Kazekage.

"Sensei, mission accomplished." Gaara had changed a lot throughout the three years. His outfit now consisted of black Anbu pants followed by a dark green overcoat. He wore a light gray vest on top of the overcoat that extended over the right shoulder. The famous gourd on his back remained, though. Baki nodded as he saw another aspect of Gaara that greatly changed throughout the last three years. Usually, he could feel a dark aura when close to his student, courtesy of both the one-tailed demon and the poor choice in sealing method. Apparently, jinchuuriki and bijuu had come into some sort of agreement. Gaara would appease the demon's urges in exchange for some peace and quiet from the demon. Of course, the deal resulted in Gaara going on a number of A to S-ranked assignments that no one would be able to come back from alive. Gaara's impenetrable defense had only increased throughout the last three years.

"Any survivors?"

His assignment was actually given to them by the Daimyo. Apparently, the old fart didn't want to use his own forces to take care of a gang of local criminals who were terrorizing local villages and kidnapping the women and children. It was an A-ranked assignment, consisting of dealing with all but one of the forty members of the gang. The last one would be kept alive as requested by the Daimyo to serve as a message to other criminals out there. Baki could not help but sigh in dismay at the necessity of sending a jinchuuriki to deal with bandits, but the Daimyo insisted on the manner, telling that his government needed to send a message to the population. Probably it would be better to hire occasional route missions that would keep the criminals away, but politics was politics in the end. Baki did not care much for the art, but he could feel the power behind it. Gaara looked at his sensei for a moment and answered.

"Just like you requested, only one remained; although the leader was quite adamant in killing me. I had to struggle a lot in restraining Shukaku's urge to rip him apart." Baki nodded, but inside, he felt for his student as his image within the village wasn't much different from the very demon inside of him. Aside from Gaara's sister Temari, no one in the village was willing to work with Gaara, not even his brother Kankurou. Gaara's skills were used only for one thing and one thing only and that was killing.

"Okay Gaara, dismissed." The jinchuuriki nodded, before getting up. He looked outside the window for a moment as he narrowed his eyes. Something was amiss, that much he could feel it.

The jinchuuriki didn't say anything, though and transformed into sand once more, leaving a clueless Baki alone to ponder on the jinchuuriki's behavior as of late.

***In Konoha***

While trouble seems to be popping up in Sunagakure, in Konoha, it was nothing but peaceful. Unlike Suna, the air wasn't as cold, although some people would complain about the slightly chilly environment. Standing on top of the Sarutobi Mannor's ceiling, Naruto couldn't help but focus on the bright white light that filled his senses. Being blind since he was born, Naruto had never learned just what it was to fully appreciate a view. Even if he could get around his inability and use chakra to see, it just wasn't the same experience. He ignored it however in favor of something his sensei has taught him. It was something that experienced shinobi got when they felt that something bad was happening somewhere else. Kaede-sensei managed to increase Naruto's keen senses and train them to detect such situations.

The old hag wouldn't have it if her student wasn't one hundred and ten percent prepared for everything that could happen out there.

The trouble, however, was that although he could feel the animosity in the air, Naruto was still clueless of what it could be or could have been. This ability did have its uses sometimes, but more often than not, the spy was just pissed off at being alarmed for no particular reason. Sighing in dismay and cursing his teacher for wasting precious hours of training for this ability alone, Naruto went inside the mansion, as soundless as possible. He just couldn't help not to, being used to doing it all the time.

***Next day***

The same feeling of dread returned, but this time it was not Naruto who felt it. As soon as he had woken up, the Godaime Hokage got dressed and went to his office for the day. Unlike Naruto, the man had decades of experience and knew how to control his impulses. Whatever it happened somewhere would soon reach his ears, by either his old student's mouth or someone else. It did not take too long for Jiraiya to reach his office as he spotted the usual pile of paperwork. Frowning at the scene before him, Jiraiya took a seat and quickly sorted the documents before him for a good half hour, before beginning his business. Dealing with all sorts of reports was not any news for the pervert, since he was used to receiving Intel from his contacts. The secretary came inside bringing in his morning tea, earning a smile in appreciation from the pervert.

The woman's appearance did abide by the sannin's stipulations. The man maybe locked inside his desk, but that wasn't enough to keep him from his hobby.

Kaoru was the very definition of a woman that was better suited for strip clubs than being the Hokage's secretary. Starting from the bottom up, her long legs and smooth skin was one hundred percent covered by a pair of dark almost transparent panties. Following up, the woman's thighs were covered with black leather skirt that barely covered her….women area. A sleeveless marine blue blouse complimented her outfit, although it wasn't enough to keep her perfectly shaped breasts hidden from view. She would have shown her cleavage more but Jiraiya was preoccupied with Tsunade beating him senseless because of it. The pervert appreciated the woman, before he and many others hidden in the shadows appreciated the view of Kaoru walking towards the door, swinging her hips in a seductive manner. It was good that Jiraiya had chosen only male Anbu members for his security; otherwise, he wouldn't be able to fully appreciate such a view. He smirked lecherously as he could see the young Uchiha looking at her behind longer than the others. Even if Sasuke was reserved and all, he was still a teenager and thus didn't have much control over his hormones. The pervert now had two prodigies trained in the art of perverseness.

Naruto was his first.

Five minutes after Kaoru closed the door, a chunnin barged inside looking frantic.

"Hokage-sama, an urgent message just arrived from Suna." The room immediately tensed as Jiraiya took the scroll and opened it. He frowned upon the dire news presented to him. Apparently, Akatsuki has begun their assault on the jinchuuriki, meaning that their hunt for funds, as reported by Naruto, was completed. According to the report, one member of the organization infiltrated the village and engaged in deep battle against the Ichibi Jinchuuriki. The battle ended in Akatsuki's favor and now Gaara was captured. Already knowing the organization's target, Jiraiya knew that time was off the essence.

"Akatsuki had just barged inside Suna and captured the Ichibi Jinchuuriki. Get me Gai's team, Kakashi and Haruno Sakura, right this instant. Tell Kakashi that if he doesn't come here in five minutes, I'll personally confiscate his collection for myself." Jiraiya knew that such a treat always worked with his student's student Kakashi. He would never carry on the sentence, as Kakashi was most loyal customer. The chunnin flinched at the sudden increase in voice and vanished. Jiraiya sensed Sasuke's chakra flaring up. He smirked knowing that Sasuke would wish to take part in this mission.

"You shall be the team's backup alongside someone else." The Uchiha flared his chakra once more, nodding at his new assignment. Something told Sasuke that he knew just whom he would be working with.

In no time, the assembled shinobi stood in front of the Hokage's desk, except from Kakashi who was seating close to the window. Team Gai had all grown up in the last three years, with Lee and Tenten becoming chunnin and Neji becoming a jounin six months ago. Haruno Sakura had also become a chunnin and an accomplished medic-nin, tutored by Senju Tsunade herself. Looking at the assembled team, Jiraiya smirked at the barely tapped potential of this new generation. Together, these youths managed great things already and would only grow with time.

"Long story short, you all will march towards Sunagakure, Kakashi will be the leader. This morning, we received a distress call from the Kazekage stating that Akatsuki had infiltrated the village and captured the Ichibi Jinchuuriki. You all must reach Sunagakure fast in order to get the remaining information from the Kazekage himself. Time is off the essence here as we do not know what Akatsuki's intentions are after capturing the jinchuuriki." Jiraiya stopped for a good thirty seconds, letting the info sick in. This mission was easily A-ranked, bordering on S-ranked, considering that the organization was filled with S-ranked criminals. Aside from Kakashi and Gai, the rest never faced this level of danger before. However, with two of Konoha's elite jounin and a rookie jounin in Neji, Jiraiya had faith in them. He was already considering the backup plan, anyhow.

"Dismissed and good luck out there." Everyone nodded and bowed to the Hokage. Kakashi closed his book immediately and turned to his team. His presence alone brought confidence to the team.

"Meet me at the gates in half an hour and pack some soldier pills. We won't have much time to rest until we reach Suna."

Everyone nodded and Gai gave Kakashi his usual thumbs up. The team vanished in blurs, leaving Jiraiya alone.

"So it seems that Akatsuki has begun to move." Jiraiya smirked at the sudden voice behind him. He always wondered how Hiruzen-sensei felt when Jiraiya appeared in his office like this. Certainly, Naruto was already there before the assigned team arrived. Jiraiya quickly ushered his Anbu guards from attacking as the ninja spy appeared from out of nowhere. Sasuke was actually the only one that wasn't alerted, but Jiraiya doubted that the Uchiha knew of Naruto's presence beforehand. He was more accustomed to it than the others were.

"Didn't I tell you not to sneak in inside my office, Naruto?" Jiraiya asked once more only to hear the same answer from Naruto.

"I already told you it's hard to break some habits, sensei. I was just passing by when I heard their name. I must remember to have a nice chat with my contact in Suna. S-ranked shinobi they maybe, but no one would be able to infiltrate the village, unless they had previous knowledge on the village's defenses or had someone from the inside, granting them entrance. I'm more inclined towards the last hypothesis," Jiraiya pondered on the manner. The subject of a Akatsuki mole inside Sunagakure was very troubling indeed. Jiraiya wondered if the same could be said for the other hidden villages as well. They certainly have both the skill and resources for something like this as for the last three years, the organization focused solely on gathering funds by selling their services to anyone willing to buy, including one of the great hidden villages.

"I can see merit in your words, Naruto. However, rescuing Gaara is now our top priority." Naruto nodded just as Sasuke shunshined by his side. "You two will follow Kakashi's team from the shadows. If either of you perceive life threatening danger, you are to intervene, otherwise leave them be and focus on the enemy instead. Your mission is two-fold. Do not let anyone on the team die and make sure that the Akatsuki members are killed. Naruto, once you reach Suna, find some way of identifying the mole. I have a feeling that they have someone influential in their pocket, someone whom Suna would never suspect." Naruto nodded as it made sense. He e identitywould find a way inside the village and investigate, perhaps through his Doton Kage Bunshin (Earth Release: Shadow Clone Technique). In no time, Sasuke and Naruto vanished from within the Hokage's office and towards the gates.

Jiraiya was left alone to ponder on the upcoming events and could not help but frown in dismay.

These last three years were relatively calm to the Hokage, allowing him to implement some measures that aided in the village's recovery. Orochimaru had not shown up at all and Akatsuki had their minds elsewhere for the moment. Now, however, with Akatsuki now mobilizing, he could feel the events happening one after the other in faster succession. It was not the first time and he guessed it wouldn't be the last one. It happened constantly in the great shinobi wars. The perverted Hokage just hoped beyond hope that history would not be repeating itself. He just did not want to face yet another great shinobi war and he certainly did not want to be the one sitting behind this desk if or when the war ends. Jiraiya was so heavily engrossed in his thoughts that he did not hear his front door opening once more.

"It seems you're finally beginning to understand what exactly the Hokage's position entails my student."

Jiraiya gasped as he was caught by his sensei. His eyes lacked the usual focus while he tried to comprehend the heavy burden that was being placed on him. As it appeared, it only took one single glance from the famous Sarutobi Hiruzen for him to figure out what Jiraiya was thinking. Hiruzen was wearing his white kimono followed by red loose pants. He had the same face expression as Jiraiya remembered his old sensei from the war times. Jiraiya felt a little more relieved just by having this man by his side.

"Do you feel it too, sensei?" Hiruzen merely nodded, as if he was inside Jiraiya's head the entire time.

"Indeed, peace has graced us with its presence for the last three years, but now the chain of events will progress once more and if my experience serves me right, it will only increase until war becomes the only possible outcome. The one aspect I'm most frightened by, however, is that our little spy will have to overcome tough odds in the near future. Not only does have has an organization after the Kyuubi, but he is also responsible for maintaining Konoha's spy network. So far, he has progressed nicely, but Akatsuki hadn't made their move on him yet." Jiraiya nodded as he went through a similar problem maintaining the spy network during the third great ninja war. However, Jiraiya understood something from his sensei that picked his interest.

"You believe the gaki is not ready for the Akatsuki?" Hiruzen smiled and nodded at his student's affirmative. Indeed, he had taught Jiraiya well.

"Naruto's skills are adequate for a low A-ranked shinobi. The abilities he learned from his contact in Grass Country will only aid him in espionage or fighting lower level shinobi. However, against someone S-ranked, he stands next to little chance to survive. If he used the fox's chakra, he could increase his chances, but it wouldn't be enough." Jiraiya nodded grimly. S-ranked shinobi had enough experience to beat Naruto's tactics. Once that is gone and Naruto is exposed, he would be killed. "With that being said, Jiraiya, I have decided to oversee his training together with Enma. Two months I believe will be enough for me to whip that boy into shape." Of that last statement, Jiraiya had no doubt in his mind whatsoever as he remembered the torturous training from the Professor.

"I doubt you came here to ask my permission for this, but by all means go ahead. I myself pity him to be afraid."

This time Hiruzen's laughter carried a warmer feeling.

"I believe in my grandson's endurance and I also believe he will make it through whatever I and Enma will do to him. I have faith that he will be at the same level as Kakashi-kun when we're done." Jiraiya never dared question the man in front of him in the past. Hiruzen Sarutobi was not an idealistic man and he never promised anything he was not ready to deliver. If he said he would achieve something, then you could sit back and wait without a care in the world. Well, Naruto's health after being beaten constantly aside, he did not need to worry in the slightest about Hiruzen's estimation. Kakashi was an elite jounin and high A-ranked shinobi, bearing on S-rank in a couple of years.

"As soon as he returns from his assignment, I'll brief him about it." Hiruzen nodded and bid his student goodbye before staring the pile of paperwork and smiling about something.

Jiraiya snorted at the silent jab as he started working on the next pile.

***With Naruto***

Naruto and Sasuke were busy following the assigned team plus one from the shadows. As soon as the team departed, they encountered Gaara's sister Temari. The girl became frantic upon hearing the news and joined the team in their travel towards Sunagakure. Naruto knew about her skills with the fan and according to his contact, Temari was considered the best fan user in all of Sunagakure. To the spy, the choice of weapon was unappealing, not to mention considerably large to use efficiently, especially for such a tiny figure. He and Sasuke were following the team from a measured distance. Naruto could see Sasuke's stealth technique and found it similar to the one he learned from Kaori-sensei, although he could hear Sasuke's footsteps a bit more than his own.

Sasuke probably was not used to travelling this fast while maintaining his stealth. Naruto could see the Uchiha battling with his chakra in order to reduce it to a bare minimum while at the same time focusing on the soles of his feet to reduce the impact with the trees. Quite soon, they would be travelling on the desert and Naruto had a feeling that he would need to lead the way. Sasuke, on the other hand, looked at his partner for a while. Sasuke's speed was more battle oriented, hence why he was having trouble keeping up. Naruto, however, behaved like it was an everyday occurrence.

The more analytical mind, however, overcame the more jealous one, allowing the Uchiha to deduce that Naruto had been doing this his entire spy career while Sasuke usually remained inside the village walls.

"How are you fairing, Sasuke?" Naruto asked as they initiated the track through the desert. "From here on out, it's best if you follow my lead. I've crossed the desert lots of times in the past."

Sasuke just could not allow a conversation to start between the two. He was indeed in favor of presenting a counter-argument against Naruto's claim. He had to comply with the spy as he followed Naruto's patterns. He saw Naruto weaving through quick hand signs and quickly activated his sharingan to see what Naruto intended. Much to his surprise, before he deactivated his doujutsu, was that Naruto had casted a disorientating genjutsu around their position. The subtle casting did impress Sasuke more than he cared to admit aloud. Sasuke realized later that they were now in Naruto's territory. He remembered hearing from the Hokage how much Naruto trained in the art of stealth. Every skill he acquired throughout his training was to complement his chosen specialization. Sasuke remembered being way too pissed off when he fought against Naruto.

Since they were following the group, neither one of them had to worry about sandstorms as Temari had previous knowledge of the fastest way. Since they would be arriving in broad daylight, they decided to make camp a few miles from the village's only entrance. It was clear that Akatsuki was already far away from here. Once they stopped, Naruto needed to inform Kaori-sensei about what happened and ask her for any clues regarding where they have taken Gaara. In any event, Naruto would have preferred if the woman had prior knowledge of the ones who captured Gaara. It would improve their chances of success against S-ranked shinobi if they at least knew who they were ahead of time.

***With Akatsuki***

Crossing the desert was considered a common endeavor for any Suna shinobi.

Because of the village's location, the only way to travel was by facing thousand miles of nothing but sand and the dry weather. The risk intensified, of course, as sandstorms were common. Sasori, despite being protected by his puppet, cursed the endless amount of sand as he and his even more annoying than the desert partner Deidara crossed the border of River Country, towards Akatsuki's hideout. The S-ranked puppet complained the entire way back. There was one thing he despised more than anything was in the entire world and his annoying partner unknowingly so, was close to surpassing it.

Sasori despised having to wait.

As a master of the subtle arts, Sasori's actions were focused on wasting little time as possible in doing what needed to be done. As such, he worked his poison arsenal to such a level that just a scratch would kill the enemy in less than ten seconds. Said fate was shared by two chunnin who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Two precisely aimed senbon to their necks and their lives were forfeit before any of them realized that it wasn't just a bug bite. Quickly sealing their bodies for future puppet material, Sasori was done with nothing left to do as he waited for his partner. Deidara's need for the theatrics ended with him prolonging the battle more than he should.

"The base is up ahead, let us hurry." Deidara was on top of the clay bird and smirked at his rather grumpy partner.

"I see you're still bitter about my art, Sasori-danna. You just have to appreciate the beautiful and exquisite art of the bang, yeah."

A grump in annoyance was Sasori's only remark.

"You insist on calling those fireworks of yours art? True art endures the ages, beauty everlasting." Deidara smirked at that. He rather enjoyed his partner in crime as Sasori had his own views. The mad bomber would kill himself before being partners with a stuck up asshole like Itachi or even the bloodthirsty maniac Kisame. He enjoyed even more knowing that Sasori did not care about him at all.

Within minutes, both were standing on top of a river facing a presumably normal looking mountain. Deidara worked quickly in performing a single hand seal using the hand with a ring on it. After sending some chakra to the ring, the jewel sent an image to the rock in front of them. Out of a sudden, the rock opened on its own, reviewing a beautifully looking cave inside. Deidara and Sasori entered the cave and by the end of the water path, there was a figure there waiting for them. The person's image was rather blurred, but the outfit was identical. When the individual turned to greet them, Deidara and Sasori took notice of the spiky looking hair and two purple eyes containing a ripple-like pattern, which spreads over the eyeballs. It was overall quite menacing.

"You're late." The voice was strong and sounded as if it was being transmitted through a speaker. Sasori merely grunted in acknowledgment of their leader's statement.

"The Ichibi Jinchuuriki was much stronger than we anticipated, yeah. But that didn't save him from my art." The astral projection nodded, before showing his back to his subordinates.

The leader went through a long series of hand seals, before slamming his hand on the ground.

Kuchiyose Gedo Mazo (Summoning Technique: Demonic Statue of the Outer Path)

The entire cave started shaking as something rose from the ground. The statue was a giant, humanoid entity with most of its body looking decayed. The body was limited to only its upper torso and its arms. The statue's hands were joined together with its ten fingers turning towards the top of the cave. The statue's eyes were blindfolded. The astral projection turned to Deidara and Sasori, before performing the same one-handed seal that Deidara performed earlier.

"Assemble…" The order was clear, reaching out to all members of the fearful organization. Within seconds, six more astral projections appeared, before Deidara and Sasori joined them in their respective fingers. The other images showed two familiar faces in both Hoshigaki Kisame and Uchiha Itachi. Itachi was similar to the leader as only his hair frame and sharingan eyes were visible.

"Well…well, you don't look too good Deidara…was the little Ichibi too much for you?" The mad bomber snarled at the jab and was about to retort when the leader interrupted.

"There is no time for this. Now, since Orochimaru is no longer with us, the entire procedure will take longer than expected, probably up to three days." That thought alone made everyone wince, but none said a word. While they were all S-ranked, only Kisame was known for his enormous chakra capacity. It was for this precise reason that the procedure would rely on him to supply the majority of chakra. "Let us proceed." The leader announced, before going through hand seals sequence.

Fuuinjutsu Genryuu Kyuu Fuujin (Sealing Technique: Complete Nine Mystical Dragon Seal)

The technique actually involved all nine sources of charka in perfect synchronicity, so everyone was performing it. The statue's mouth suddenly started to glow purple, before nine spectral dragons came out of it, heading towards the unconscious Gaara. After the impact, Gaara was enveloped in some sort of sphere made from the same energy, without knowing that little by little, the Ichibi was being released from his very body.

***With Kakashi***

Counting since they left Konoha, it took an entire day to reach the hidden village in the sand. Completely unaware of their hidden backup, the group marched straight towards the center of the village where the Kazekage's tower stood. The scarecrow jounin could see that the villagers were looking at Temari more than they were at the group of Konoha shinobi. Being the jinchuuriki's sister, he could attest to the treatment – or lack thereof offered to Temari just because of who her brother was. Apparently, no one bothered to remember that she was the Yondaime Kazekage's daughter. Temari did not seem to care, however, as she kept running straight towards the Kazekage's office.

It did not take long for the group to reach the Kazekage's office, before Temari simply barged inside, much to the secretary's protest. The wind shadow did not even show a response despite the excessive ruckus.

"Baki-sensei, what happened to Gaara?" Baki was busy going through some papers when he looked up only to see an exhausted Temari followed by what appeared to be shinobi from Konoha.

"I take it Hokage-dono hasn't given you any explanation. The gist of it all was pretty self-explanatory." Of course, Baki's tact for easing people's worries was the equivalent to zero as a small vein popped from Temari's forehead at his comment. "There isn't much to tell Temari. Akatsuki managed to sneak inside the village somehow and engaged in a fierce battle against Gaara. The fight was brutal and the village suffered many casualties because of it. I just had to lend my ears to the council as they actually believe that Akatsuki has provided Suna a big favor in taking Gaara away from Suna." Both Baki and Temari knew that Kankuro was a member of the council and they both knew that the puppet user had little to no sentiment towards his little brother.

"I want to go with Konoha to rescue him." Baki nodded in approval. He would have issued the order even if she had not asked beforehand. Because not only she was Gaara's sister, but Suna just couldn't allow Konoha to go alone to deal with this mess.

Seeing his cue to show himself, Kakashi took a step forward.

"Kazekage-dono, what can you tell us about the attackers and the direction they went?" Baki nodded at the man's presence, offering a silent appreciation for the Hokage for sending Hatake Kakashi to assist.

"I was only able to arrive at the scene when Gaara was already captured. However, I managed to recognize the kidnapper's identity. Deidara is his name and he is an S-ranked missing-nin from Iwagakure. He possesses the Kekkei Genkai Bakuton (Explosion Release) and is a former member of Iwa's Blast Corps. I remember the damage those bastards delivered in the last great shinobi war." Kakashi nodded, also remembering some of his previous encounters with them. In one or two, his sharingan ended up saving his life. "Other than that, we have knowledge that they were moving towards the Land of Rivers." Kakashi nodded, considering the time they had to reach Akatsuki.

"There is no time to rest then, we'll need to move out right away. Do we have any piece of Gaara's clothing? Baki nodded before giving Kakashi a piece of his clothes that was ripped in the fight.

Kakashi went through a couple hand signs, summoning Pakkun. Before the group left, however, the door opened up and a woman entered, surprising both Temari and Baki. She looked frail with her heavily wrinkled face being the only visible feature. The rest was covered by Suna's standard black robe followed by a white scarf hanging over her shoulder. The reason behind Baki and Temari's surprise was that this person in particular had never abandoned her house in a long time.

"What can I do for you Chiyo-obasama? Baki took the initiative. At this point, everyone turned to see the new arrival, including Kakashi. Upon seeing his hair and recognizing it somehow, the frail and old woman suddenly went nuts and jumped towards Kakashi, screaming bloody murder at someone named White Fang. The man in question looked alarmed at the sudden movement, but Lee jumped in front of her and stopped Chiyo before she could get close to Kakashi. The rest were already on edge, in case of an attack. Neji had activated his byakugan, Tenten had summoned a kunai and Gai had fallen into his taijutsu form. Kakashi was caught wondering what this woman had against his father. Baki got up from his desk immediately in outrage at the woman's actions.

"What is the meaning of this? Why are you attacking Hatake Kakashi? He is not the White Fang." The woman looked at Kakashi for a while in surprise, before laughing hysterically.

"Gotcha, I was only pretending to be senile." The silence that overcame the room suddenly was quite deafening as everyone looked at the woman with skepticism. Tenten and Lee began whispered discussion about the woman's insanity. Neji was busy maintaining his stiff posture, but he too wondered about the old hag's mentality. Chiyo turned to Baki next, completely changing the subject and not bothering to answer the Kazekage's question. "I will go as well. It's the only thing I can do to compensate for what I did to Gaara-kun in the past." The look of sadness in her eyes brought yet another surprised look from the other two sand shinobi in the room. Chiyo just never socialized with others, aside from her brother. "A couple of months ago, Gaara came to me, asking for assistance in fixing his seal. I did what I could, but I am no expert on seals like the Yondaime and Godaime Hokage. I did what I could to help him and we managed to reduce the link between him and the demon, thus allowing Gaara better control over his own emotions, especially in the midst of a battle."

Baki narrowed his eyes at the elder. Gaara's seal was a sensitive topic and if everything did not work perfectly, the demon could escape and terrorize the village once more.

"I need to be made aware of this Chiyo, if the Ichibi escaped, no one would be able to stop it. The Yondaime Kazekage had trouble even with his gold sand. We will talk about this afterward. Now go everyone" The group instantly left following Pakkun, Kakashi's dog summons. Once more alone inside his office, Baki pondered on what Chiyo had told him about Gaara. Before he was even born, the Yondaime Kazekage had opted to capture the Ichibi and used the beast as a weapon for Sunagakure. The man's seal choice, however, was what made Gaara as he is labeled as today. People considered him no better than the demon itself, because the seal was not strong enough to keep the beast from openly influencing the host's thoughts and actions. In the end, Gaara's actions were a direct consequence of his own father's actions. Now, the creator of his seal, Chiyo, was working on fixing the seal and Baki knew that he could provide the woman assistance in that manner, by asking Konoha for another favor. That is, of course, assuming that Gaara comes home alive.

***With Naruto***

Currently in their hideouts waiting for Kakashi's team to leave, Naruto and Sasuke just stood there, focused on the job in hand. Two hours ago, Naruto sent a message bird to one of his contacts requesting information. Sasuke found the action a bit odd, but did not comment. According to the spy, he was contacting someone that might have some information about what has happened in Sunagakure. The Uchiha was skeptical of the fake bird returning in time, since Kakashi's team would come out anytime now. When Naruto got up from his seating position, however, he saw the bird coming at their direction. Naruto quickly snatched the little parchment and passed his finger across the braille text. Naruto silently thanked his sensei for learning how to write in braille. No matter how much he improved, the ability to read was forever gone from his reach.

Sasuke quietly observed his partner as he ran his finger through the small parchment. The Uchiha became worried once he saw Naruto's momentary flinch and wondered what was wrong.

"We're in something way over our heads here, Sasuke." Behind his mask, Sasuke narrowed his eyes. Naruto just was not the type of person that would say things like that.

"Why are you saying that?" Quickly ripping the parchment to small pieces, Naruto crossed his arms in deep thinking.

"My contact in Grass Country has told me the identities of the two Akatsuki members who kidnapped Gaara." Naruto said, before reaching his pouch for a bingo book, before showing it to Sasuke. "The first one is a missing-nin from Iwa, called Deidara. S-ranked in class, he was a member of Iwagakure's Explosion Corps. He possesses the Bakuton (Explosion Release) kekkei genkai. He became a missing-nin after stealing one of the village's kenjutsu and using it on a few buildings in Iwagakure. I happened to be close to Iwa grounds when he escaped." Sasuke nodded, but said nothing as Naruto flipped the bingo book once more until he stopped. "The second member is easily the most dangerous of the duo, Akasuna no Sasori, former member of Sunagakure's Puppet Brigade. Contrary to Deidara, Sasori's exploits are not public knowledge. Not much is known about him, except that he was rumored to be the strongest puppet user in Suna's history."

It took a brief look at both entries in the bingo book for Sasuke to realize why Naruto flinched. In the end, these two's backgrounds made sense, considering that Itachi was a member of this group.

"Why do you consider Sasori to be the most dangerous?" Apart from the fact that they were clueless about his actual abilities, Sasuke somehow knew that Naruto had more information than the bingo book.

"My contact is familiar with Sasori. She fought against him constantly in the third great ninja war. Back when he was still loyal to Suna, the man was quite feared. His puppets were deadly, but his kugutsu abilities did not even compare to his poison ability. One bare scratch was enough to paralyze the enemy in five minutes. After infected, the opponent was killed in less than three days. The man is a legend. My poisons are not nearly as potent. Not to mention that my contact's info is limited to his time as a Suna-nin. It's only logical to assume that he is much more dangerous now." Unless Sasuke was having trouble studying people's behavior, he could see how much respect Naruto had for this man Sasori.

"I see…in any case, we will need to split up if we wish to accomplish our assignment. Which one do you prefer?" Naruto nodded at Sasuke's input.

"Considering that I have more experience in Sasori's abilities, I believe it's more prudent for me to focus on him. My best guess as far as Deidara is concerned, is that the man's bakuton abilities have a major disadvantage against you, because of your lightning nature and your sharingan." Sasuke nodded with a smirk behind his mask. He rather knew that Naruto would call dibs on Sasori, based on such a vivid description of his background and abilities. Personally, the Uchiha would go for either one, since he had never faced an S-ranked shinobi before. If Sasuke manages to defeat Deidara, then he takes one-step closer into matching his brother in skill and then face Itachi one day, as equals.

"How do we alert Kakashi and the others about it?" Sasuke asked, only to see Naruto nodding in the negative.

"We don't." Sasuke looked at Naruto sharply. "Warning him is impossible without exposing our presence here and ruining our mission. The enemy cannot know we are here, otherwise we will fail to surprise them. That means that Kakashi and the others cannot know as well." Sasuke looked troubled by such an argument, but said nothing. He had some semblance of knowledge about how black ops missions are handled. Therefore, Naruto's explanation was not too far off what he heard about it. Eventually, Naruto got up from his seating position and looked towards the hidden village in the sand, earning Sasuke's attention because of it. "It seems they are on the move once more." Naruto could see that two new individuals had joined the group. The smaller one was right next to Kakashi and Naruto assumed to be one of his dog summons. The spy realized that his job of tailing the group became a little more problematic. Kakashi's summons could sniff out his and Sasuke's presence easily.

"We need to maintain more distance. Kakashi just summoned his ninja dogs." Sasuke nodded as he moved to follow the team. "Go ahead; I'll need to take care of something before we go."

No sooner had Sasuke left, Naruto made a couple of hand seals, before a mud clone emerged from the sand beneath them, looking exactly like Naruto. It took a lot of time for him to master this peculiar clone, as not only was the Shadow Clone an A-ranked technique, adding elements into the mix, made it much harder to perform. The most Naruto could produce and maintain the clone's consistency was two. Essentially, however, the clone was exactly like the original. The only difference being that the clone had half of Naruto's total chakra. His stealth abilities, however, remained one hundred percent and with an added bonus that the clone will not have much trouble controlling its chakra while snooping around.

"You know your assignment, correct?" The original asked, earning a nod from the clone, before the clone went underground. Once he went under, it was as if he never existed.

Naruto vanished soon after, increasing his speed to reach Sasuke.

***The end***

Okay, at first I considered going all the way to the end, as I have great ideas concerning Sasori. However, the chapter would be too long. On many occasions in the past, I did longer chapters and I did not focus enough time on the scenes, rushing them every time. Well, anyway, the wheels are spinning once more and are spinning faster towards the inevitable consequence that Hiruzen had predicted it would come when he was the Hokage. Next chapter, I will focus on the upcoming fights as well as my devious plans concerning Sasori of the Red Sand. Afterward, we will move on to Hiruzen's plans concerning Naruto. I am still debating if I can place both the fights and Hiruzen's plans in one chapter.

By the way, I have recently placed a new challenge in my profile, one I believe everyone will enjoy it.

(New Challenge)

I do not know but you all, but I have seen the interaction between Naruto and the Nidaime Hokage in recent manga chapters and I liked a lot. I kept wondering what would happen had Naruto found something about the man that would later inspire him into becoming a better shinobi just like the Nidaime. I would write it, but i would like to finish Regret first. If anyone likes to take a shot, then go for it.

What if Naruto was running from a couple chunnin one day and ends up inside an old house inside the Senju Compound. A house that belonged to the Nidaime.

He explores the house for a while and finds a hidden compartment. Inside he finds a scroll left by the Nidaime, containing his personal journal and every technique he knew and created. The first page of the journal Nidaime could say that he did not wish to leave this journal to either Hiruzen or Danzou. Nidaime's opinion was that while he had chosen Hiruzen as his successor, he would have preferred someone that had both Hiruzen and Danzou's personalities mixed together. The author can cover a lot of historical ground here. The Nidaime had his hands in everything since the village foundation until his demise prior to the Sandaime's nomination. Naruto could even learn a kenjutsu style that would go along with the Nidaime's sword later on after he hunts Aoi. He can possess both wind and water affinities.

Pairings is free (except Sakura or Hinata) Tenten or Ino would be fine as well as others his age or a little bit older (Hana, perhaps).

The story must be more action oriented. The romantic part would come later once he was a chunnin.