***Author Note***

Hi there and welcome to another chapter of Meshii.

Just to let everyone know, one of the characters will die in this chapter, so brace yourselves.

Other than that, no further comments, except answer to the reviews from last chapter.

DarkPirateKing69 - Naruto does have some powerful techniques. He never uses because his position as a spy forces him to be subtle in every move. Also, like i stated last chapter, Naruto will accompany Sandaime on a training trip where he will be trained by Enma and Hiruzen as well. I am still debating if they will focus only on taijutsu and kenjutsu (close combat) or more elemental ninjtusu (lightning and earth being his choices and affinity). Naruto won't return an S-ranked shinobi, but at least as skilled as Kakashi. Usually what defines someone as S-ranked is not one's power, but rather how one utilizes his power. The shift in rank will come with experience.

Okay, let's start the chapter.

Please enjoy.

Chapter 21 - Successor

Beta: Kyuubi123

It was already night time in the hidden village of sand and the entire village was on high alert, considering that two S-ranked criminals managed to infiltrate the village and kidnap the Ichibi Jinchuuriki. The Kazekage had already outlined his orders and every shinobi, chunnin and above, received the task of protecting the village, through twelve hours shifts. A breach in security weighed badly on any Kage's reputation and Baki simply did not want it to happen again during his reign as Kazekage. However, despite the entire village's protection, Naruto's mud clone managed to navigate through the dark alleys towards his destination, where he would find clues as to how exactly the first breach happened.

His suspicion was that Akatsuki had a mole inside Sunagakure and said mole was the one who pulled some strings to get the Akatsuki inside.

As soon as he dropped on the ground mere inches from the Kazekage's Building, Naruto quickly applied a disorienting genjutsu on himself and took into hiding in a dark corner. No sooner had he stepped into the dark, two jounin appeared where he once was. From their heartbeat, neither of them noticed him yet. The spy could not take any chances. It was obvious that the guard detail would be even higher when close to the Kage's Office. Once inside the building, Naruto let go of the genjutsu and used his quick agility to navigate throughout the hallways. A quick use of the Meisaigakure no Jutsu allowed him to merge within the walls. A chunnin passed him by complaining to the heavens about the need of an emergency council meeting right now just because some criminals had rid the village of the freaking demon. The Naruto clone maintained the jutsu as he followed the unsuspecting chunnin.

It took five minutes for Naruto to reach the place where the meeting was being held and he quietly climbed the room walls before he reached the ceiling. The room was filled with high-ranking shinobi and it wouldn't do well for a spy of his skill to get caught because he underestimated Suna's finest. Applying a double-layer genjutsu on himself, Naruto stood on top of a wooden ledge that happened to be close to the ventilation shaft. If push came to shove, he could simply transform into mud once more, being a mud clone, but he would prefer to do so before anyone saw him and linked him to Konohagakure. The meeting was filled with protests similar to what the chunnin that Naruto followed expressed. The majority of the occupants never liked Gaara, let alone tolerated his existence. As such, they all questioned the meaning of this sudden meeting.

"Quiet everyone….this meeting's purpose is not only to communicate what happened, but also for us to investigate why the breach happened." Kazekage was firm on the notion that bringing Gaara's topic would just be a waste of time. The only member in the council who could have sided with him, that being Gaara's brother Kankuro, wanted nothing to do with the jinchuuriki. Judging by the looks from everyone, he was right. "Our village's location had blessed us with natural walls for decades. The mountains' formation only allow one entrance to the village. However, and much to my surprise, two S-ranked criminals managed to get inside without any of our many gate guards knowing about it."

Naruto took his time to analyze the meeting and come up with one answer that has been bugging him since he entered the room. The meeting was happening in a giant circular table with eight seats available. Naruto compared the seating arrangements to a Compass Rose with the Kazekage occupying the North seat, meaning that the other seven were members of the village council. However, instead of seven councilors, the room had only six of them and one chair was unoccupied.

"Hey where is councilor Yuura? Why isn't he here?" Naruto paid attention to the conversation now that the identity of the missing person was revealed. A jounin appeared next to the Kazekage.

"Sir, we could not find councilor Yuura-sama anywhere. We're still looking for him, sir."

Kazekage gritted his teeth in annoyance. Yuura was one of the village's most steemed members.

"Well go out there and find him!" The jounin nodded and vanished.

Memorizing the man's name, Naruto's mud clone left the room towards the village's archive. It made perfect sense that Akatsuki's mole would be someone important to the village and from the Kazekage's outburst; Yuura must be highly influential that his presence was necessary. It took half an hour for the mud clone to find the archives. He applauded the village leader for placing a disorienting genjutsu next to the entrance, as only a selected few would have access to it. Still, Naruto would not be complacent to believe that the illusion was the only method of keeping spies from getting access to the archives. Once inside, he took some time to focus on other chakra presences or in this case, seals. Fuuinjutsu was not his forte, but at least he knew that all seals required chakra to be active. As such, his ability to pinpoint chakra presences allowed him to scout the entire room.

Once he was satisfied, Naruto searched for the shinobi's records. The report itself was not his focus. He could not read them anyway. However, he was able to check for chakra residues. Someone tampered with the report, no doubt. As soon as he opened it, he could feel his chakra being invaded by the illusion. Probably, anyone who opened it would read what the illusion caster wanted it. In this case, Naruto received the fake information instantly, without being able to read it. The clone smirked at the devious plan. Falsifying an entire profile was almost impossible. The spy would take years in order to plant false, but plausible information in Yuura's profile, at the risk of get caught at each attempt. What the spy did instead was place a genjutsu on the report, containing the profile instead. He memorized the man's picture and appearance for his report to the Hokage.

Satisfied that his mission was finished, the clone dissolved into mud.

***With Naruto***

As the original followed Sasuke who was following the original backup team, he received the information from his clone. Standing fifty miles from the team they were supposed to protect from the shadows, Naruto and Sasuke decided to rest for the night. The news of the culprit responsible for allowing Akatsuki to infiltrate Suna did not sway his repressed anger at this point. The anger was one hundred percent directed towards his partner for this assignment. Two hours ago, two Akatsuki members ambushed the team and one happened to be the very person that Uchiha Sasuke had hated ever since he could remember. Naruto thought that something had happened to Sasuke while he was travelling that helped his hatred somewhat.

However, seeing the normally stoic and highly skilled Anbu operative almost on the verge of ruining the mission made Naruto's blood boil.

At the very least, Sasuke did not outright charge Itachi trying to murder him. All the loyal Uchiha wanted was to confront the man. However, in doing so, or at least attempting to do so, had Naruto not used a paralyzing toxin, made Kakashi and the rest aware of their presence. Lucky for them, they were facing Uchiha Itachi and former swordsmen of the mist Hoshigaki Kisame. Simply thinking of who the presence was was enough to get you killed. However, that did not mean that once the fight was over, that Kakashi would not resume his course of thinking. Hence why Naruto had chosen to keep enough distance between them that Kakashi would not bother to check. Naruto had a couple of doton kage bunshins near Kakashi, surrounded by disorienting genjutsu. Naruto heard Sasuke murmuring and realized that the toxin was already out of his system. It was not an easy situation for Sasuke, but this just wasn't the time and place to deal with past wounds.

"Had a good night sleep?" Sasuke looked at his partner as he got up from the ground, taking a seat.

"How did you know what I was about to do?" Sasuke very well remembered that it took one second for him to get up from his hiding position and reveal himself to his brother.

"My blindness allowed me to develop my other senses, especially my hearing. You were close to me so I heard the second your leg muscles started bending. In that time, I was able to take a hold of a coated senbon and stick it to a pressure point just above your shoulder. I am sure however, that it was not enough. The only reason neither bothered to check so far is that they are pressed for time in rescuing the jinchuuriki. I even had to use a genjutsu around us to keep the byakugan from spotting us." Sasuke nodded, trying not to be impressed by Naruto's actions. He heard some stories from his Anbu operatives how some Elite Captains operated.

"How far are they now and what happened after I fell unconscious?" Naruto smirked at the question.

Sasuke understood that the mission took precedence, but he could feel that he did not approve of Naruto's actions.

"Currently they are resting fifty miles north from our location. As to the second question, I doubt that those were indeed Uchiha Itachi and Hoshigaki Kisame." Sasuke frowned. "Both Kakashi and Gai managed to deal with them with their respective team's aid, but as soon as they did, two new individuals appeared in their wardrobe instead. It appeared that their intention was merely to stall the backup team from reaching Akatsuki." Sasuke nodded and tried to get up, failing miserably. Naruto smiled once more. "Just because the toxin is out of your system, doesn't mean you get one hundred prevent movement over your body. It will take a few minutes for the blood to flow once more." Sasuke was doubtful, but snorted at the spy.

Sasuke did not need to look at his partner to know that Naruto was nothing but amused at the situation. Still, if it were not for his timely intervention, Sasuke would have revealed his presence.

"I take it you're checking their movements." Naruto nodded, offering Sasuke some food and water.

***With Kakashi***

When Kakashi took this mission, he thought nothing of it at first. Truth be told, he was not entirely sure if they would be able to rescue Gaara in time. That being said, a part of him believed that the mission already started as a failure. Not only did they have to travel to Suna but also find enough time to track an organization that even the best spies in the world were not able to pick up the slightest trail. The fact that both Itachi and Kisame showed themselves, though, sent Kakashi's notion out of the window completely. The only reason they would show themselves was to stall, meaning that the extraction was already taking place.

In no time, the mission squad would find the organization and attempt the impossible, rescue a jinchuuriki from S-ranked criminals.

Not to mention the strange presence he felt when he was fighting Itachi today. Right now, the presence was gone, but his experience did not allow him to forget about it. Kakashi somehow recognized the presence, but in the heat of battle, he didn't have time to ponder on the subject. The scarecrow jounin released a sigh and looked at the night skies. His team just didn't have the time or luxury to a full night sleep right now.

"Okay everyone, time's up. Let's move." A few of the chunnin released complaining noises, earning a silent snort from Kakashi. In the old days, he would be lucky to have thirty minutes.

Once the team took care of the supplies, the team left once more towards the designated target. Kakashi had felt the dread of seeing the sun rising on the horizon for the third time since the mission began. Kakashi didn't know how long it took for Akatsuki to extract the demon, but he had the feeling that it wasn't finished. Kakashi turned to the one responsible for leading the team towards their target. Without the byakugan, the team would not have such an easy time tracking. Pakkun had lost the trail the second Itachi and Kisame attacked.

"What can you tell me, Neji?" The jounin nodded and activated his byakugan.

"I spotted a massive chakra usage a few kilometers northwest from our position. I can see our target inside a cave surrounded by energy." Kakashi nodded resolutely. It appeared that they had finally arrived. The team landed on top of a river as they faced a mountain with a gigantic rock blocking the entrance. A seal was placed in front of the rock. Kakashi groaned as he observed the seal with his sharingan, somewhat recognizing it from experience. Before he could relay his orders, however, Maito Gai had already made up his mind and charged against the rock in order to smash into pieces. Gai used every strength he could muster in one punch as he attempted to remove the obstacle. It was at this moment that the seal resonated and nullified the green beast's attempt. Kakashi ignored Gai's faint cry of agony and turned to the byakugan user.

"Neji, check the area for similar looking seals. Tell me how many you see and their respective position." Neji nodded and used his bloodline. He relayed the seal's position, which caused a frown to appear in Kakashi's face. They are S-ranked criminals for a reason. Of course, it wouldn't be as simple as barging in, take Gaara and flee. Kakashi's mind was working a mile a minute trying to work up a suitable strategy to deal with the seals, before Gai placed a hand on his shoulder.

"Leave it to my team Kakashi. We'll remove the seals." Kakashi nodded. He didn't want the team to split, but he couldn't think of anything right now. He saw Gai taking some earphones from his backpack.

"Okay, as I recall, there are five seals in total and all five must be released at the same time. As soon as you reach the position, you'll announce your status. On the count of three, we shall remove the seals." Gai, Lee, Tenten and Neji nodded, before vanishing from their position, leaving Kakashi alone with Chiyo, Sakura and Temari. Gaara's sister looked like she wanted to rip the entire mountain apart just to save her brother. Kakashi applauded the woman's control over her emotions. No wonder she was a jounin. Kakashi received the information through his earphone that everyone had reached the respective seal and were waiting for the countdown.

Before going to the main seal, Kakashi nodded towards Sakura as the boulder would have to be removed as soon as Kakashi released the seal. Sakura just adjusted her black gloves with a smirk on her face. As soon as Kakashi took the seals off, Sakura ran like Gai did and smashed the boulder into pieces with her fist. The group soon got inside only to gasp as Gaara was on the floor. Deidara, it appeared, was seating on top of him and Sasori was standing by his side, waiting for the confrontation. Seeing the state her brother was in, Temari had just sent her training to hell.

"What did you do to him, you bastards?" Deidara smirked at the girl in front of them, practically feeding himself on her emotions.

"By your temper, you were close to him, hm. What a pity that you took too long to come here." The girl was trembling in rage at this point as she swung her fan, releasing a deadly wind gust at the two.

The Akatsuki scattered before Deidara took Gaara's body and flew away with a clay bird. Temari saw red at this point and gave chase, earning some curses from Kakashi. The scarecrow jounin could not fault her anger, but a jounin must have more control than this. He decided to let Sakura and Chiyo deal with Sasori while he went after Temari. The woman might be a jounin and all, but Kakashi was the mission leader. He just could not allow the Yondaime Kazekage's daughter to perish while under his care. As soon as Kakashi stepped out of the cave, a shimmer entered. Kakashi announced through the earphone, hoping to reach Gai in time.

"Gai, we need your team…"

"Sorry Kakashi, but it seems that the seal had a failsafe hidden. Believe or not, we are now facing copies of ourselves in a most youthful combat." Kakashi cursed Akatsuki once more as he saw Temari attempt to use wind ninjutsu against the still airborne Deidara. Right now, he needed to recover Gaara, defeat an S-ranked criminal and protect Temari at the same time. If he wished to be back in Konoha before, now he was really considering filing for early retirement.

***Sasori's fight***

Sakura and Chiyo remained inside the cave as they faced the enemy Sasori of the Red Sands. Sakura wondered if what she was seeing was the real deal. The person was grotesque, for the lack of a better word. He was a midget in size and had a round circumference. His hair was actually the most normal feature completed by a dark covering his mouth. Behind the guy, Sakura could see what appeared to be an iron tail. Looking at Chiyo for reassurance, Sakura was surprised to see the serious look on the old woman's face. Sakura remembered that when they were inside the Kazekage's office, Chiyo had barged inside and volunteered to come along. She must have some history with him, then, Sakura mused.

"It's been a while, Chiyo-obaa-sama."

If it were a normal situation, Sakura would have turned to look at Chiyo in shock after hearing how the enemy had just addressed her. However, for some reason, she just could not seem to think straight. She could feel the amount of killing intent focused between Sasori and Chiyo and could not help but tremble slightly. A fight between S-ranked shinobi was something she was not prepared for. Sure, her master Tsunade of the Sannin used her like a punching bag, but the Sannin had never tried to kill her. Right now, Sakura did not know anything about her enemy, aside from what she was seeing before her. A master of puppetry, Sasori could have many hidden weapons inside the Akatsuki robe of his.

"Sakura…" The chunnin turned to Chiyo. The old woman had never looked away from Sasori. "Stay behind me for now and try to figure something we can use against him."

"Nothing you or the little girl do will matter Chiyo-obaa-sama. Death will be the only way out of here for you two." Chiyo narrowed her eyes, before tucking her hands inside her robe's sleeves. When she pulled her hands from the sleeves, a thin blue line appeared holding ten kunai suspended in the air. The kunai flew towards Sasori at extreme speeds, but the S-ranked criminal merely placed his iron tail in front of the kunai and blocked them all effortlessly. All ten kunai started flipping in the air, before charging at Sasori once more. The projectile sliced Sasori's entire clothing, showing just what was beneath the robes he was using. Sakura could not help but gasp in shock, believing Sasori to be this grotesque figure.

"That's Hiruko, one of Sasori's favorite puppet. I do not see any chakra strings, so Sasori must be inside the puppet. I have a plan Sakura, listen up."

Meanwhile, Naruto was watching the fight from a human sized hole close to the cave entrance. He was using a double-layered genjutsu around himself. From what he knew of the enemy from his sensei, the man was deadly at most everything, meaning that for Naruto to take him out, he would need to tread carefully. In addition, there was the slight possibility that Sasori could discover his position and ruin Naruto's entire chance of killing the man when he least expected it. Facing him face to face was perhaps harder than facing the Sandaime or even Enma. Naruto just could not know what he was able. So far, Sasori had shown very little of his capabilities and it dawned on the spy-nin that the S-ranked criminal had yet to show what he is able to do. Not finding the window of opportunity, he observed the fight just as Sasori took the cloth that covered his mouth away.

…it also didn't hurt to study the man's poison from one of the senbon that pierced the wall inches from his face while waiting.

Chiyo and Sakura were running straight at the man when a barrage of senbon came out of the puppet's mouth, forcing the two kunoichi to evade. Naruto's high sense of smell caught the strong poison. Just as his sensei warned him, just a small scratch from Sasori's poison was enough to kill you. However, it appeared that both Chiyo and Sakura managed to evade. Naruto could see that Chiyo was aiding Sakura by controlling her through chakra strings. It was a good plan, but he wondered if the old lady will be able to protect Sakura and still deal with an S-ranked criminal. This time, Sasori launched a wooden arm with wooden sticks that would open and launch more senbon, but just like last time, the two kunoichi dodged them all. Naruto saw Sakura charge Sasori once more, before the criminal unleashed his tail directly at the chunnin.

Chiyo was standing still, but Naruto could see the strings as clear as day. She managed to stop the tail from piercing Sakura's face.

"Now Sakura…" Chiyo screamed before Sakura gathered enough chakra in her fist that obfuscated Naruto. He heard about Tsunade's legendary strength and realized that the woman must have passed on her knowledge. The punch obliterated the puppet and Naruto could see a dark blur leaving the puppet just seconds after.

***Deidara's fight***

Kakashi and Temari were busy chasing after Deidara while he flew away with Gaara's body.

So far, the mad bomber's strategy consisted on sending small clay bombs at Temari as well as teasing her about her brother's death state, stating that many people in Suna actually congratulated him for taking Gaara away. Temari's wind abilities allowed her to slice all of the clay bombs and Kakashi assisted by using shuriken. Still, he could see that Deidara was merely playing with them, throwing just small bombs. Kakashi saw that the man threw a good ten bombs that appeared to be spiders in shape. Temari attempted to slice them with her fan, but she missed all of them. Kakashi cursed and jumped in front of her. The spiders all latched on him and blew up, earning a surprised shout from Temari.

"Hmmm, it appears the Copy-nin isn't so tough after all." Deidara saw a burned log in Kakashi's place and instantly dodged just a fireball appeared at his back.

"It would be boring if you went down so easy. Come then copy-nin." Temari attempted to use her strong wind technique, but she stopped once Kakashi placed a hand on her shoulder.

"You have to calm down Temari-san or else we won't be able to recover Gaara from that bird." Temari narrowed her eyes in anger and turned to see Deidara smirking at her. She wanted nothing more than to pound that asshole to the ground. However, Kakashi almost being killed while saving her had allowed her reasoning to trump over her emotions. Deidara was using her emotions against them and it almost cost them dearly.

"What do you suggest? We can't let him get away." Kakashi nodded, relieved that he didn't take too long trying to convince her.

"I have something I can use, but I'll need time to prepare. Meanwhile, I need you to distract him by using diversion ninjutsu. I trust you have something in your arsenal for this." Temari nodded as she placed the giant fan on her back and grabbed a couple of miniature fans from a seal in her wrist. The pair soon followed Deidara jumping through the passageway formed by logs. As Kakashi closed his sharingan eye and focused on the ram seal, Temari focused wind chakra on her fans.

Fuuton Kamaitachi Heki (Wind Release: Wind Scythe Burst Technique)

As Temari swung her fans, she sent miniature wind gusts at the still airborne Deidara. The first ones surprised the former iwa-nin, but he managed to dodge all of it. Deidara attempted to counterattack with his small bombs, but Temari's attack stopped them as soon as it left Deidara's hands. This went on for about a couple minutes and Kakashi could see that Temari was showing signs of exhaustion. Silently appreciating the effort, Kakashi opened his sharingan eyes, revealing a different design. Temari looked at it in alarm, while Kakashi focused on Deidara. The amount of sweat on his face was evidence of the jounin's concentration. Temari was at a loss of what was going on, until she saw something happen right above Deidara's position. A warping hole was opened right on top of Deidara, shocking the bomb user as he was suddenly drawn to the hole.

Kakashi's eye began to bleed and he found he could not focus properly.

The warping hole moved to Deidara's right arm instead and ripped it off, earning a loud shout of pain from the mad bomber.

"Now Temari, drop him while he's disoriented." Kakashi yelled as he closed his sharingan eye, hoping to converse as much chakra as possible.

Temari grabbed her giant fan and swung it.

Fuuton Kakeami (Wind Release Cast Net Technique)

The technique consisted of two concentrated swings from Temari's fan. One vertical and one horizontal. The number of narrow wind currents merged with each other, forming a large net of wind currents. The technique hit the clay bird, slicing it into pieces. The bird's mouth opened and Gaara's body fell from the sky. Temari quickly used another wind technique, enveloping her brother inside a hurricane, easing his fall speed. Kakashi managed to grab the body and place it near Temari, while he tried to find Deidara. Even if the man had one arm now, it didn't mean that Kakashi could afford to be reckless. Meanwhile, Sasuke looked at the fight from the shadows, wondering what Kakashi just did with his sharingan. It was not any technique he remembered Itachi doing. In addition, the fact that Kakashi had somehow awakened the Mangenkyou Sharingan was astonishing to say the least.

Sasuke was aware of the means necessary to reach the next step. Perhaps, there was something in Kakashi's past that no one bothered to tell him about it.

Still, now just wasn't the time to dwell on it as he could see that Kakashi's chakra capacity was extremely low after his stunt and Temari wasn't any better from using her wind technique.

***Sasori's fight***

If the first minutes of the fight were not frightening enough, now it was just plain ridiculous, in Sakura's consideration.

At first, it appeared that the scales were in their favor since she was able to smash one of the man's favorite puppets. However, the advantage vanished as soon as Sasori brought up his next puppet. However, it was not any puppet, but one human puppet made of the Sandaime Kazekage, known for his magnet release techniques and his black sand. The menace now was possibly three times as bad and to make matters worse, all of the Kazekage's attacks were laced with poison. Sakura was now receiving the most vivid history lesson of her life, facing a legend in combat. Looking up, both she and Chiyo had to scatter as they were attacked by a pyramid and a rectangle shaped structures made entirely out of black sand.

Sakura even managed to use her super strength to stop the structures, but she was not going anywhere with it. The only problem with Sasori however was his distaste for wasting precious time.

He could very well keep up the attack and eventually either tire the girl and then focus only on Chiyo. The old bat was indeed crafty using her as he was using the Sandaime Kazekage, except that she was not a puppet. With the little girl out of the fight, her super strength would no longer be an obstacle and his grandmother would perish quickly. However, that would take too long and he had grown tired of this fight. Manipulating the strings with a sinister smile on his face, Sasori looked up earning the attention of the two kunoichi.

Jiton Satetsu Shigure (Iron Sand Autumnal Showers Technique)

The black sand began to spread all throughout the hole in the ceiling, almost enough to block the sunlight from interfering. Sakura and Chiyo were baffled, well Chiyo was. Sakura was on the verge of hopelessness as the rain fell upon them, causing another tremor. Because of the impact, Chiyo ended up being trapped by some rocks and Sakura was nowhere to be seen. Both puppet users turned to a sudden dust lifting, before Sakura revealed herself, looking intently at Sasori. However, much to the criminal's delight and Chiyo's shock, Sakura's arm was bleeding, meaning that one attack managed to scratch her, hence Sasori's poison was in full effect. Sakura even attempted to walk, but eventually fell on the floor.

"The poison must be starting its effect. You'll last three days if I leave you be, but I do not intend to do that." Sasori said, as he sent his Kazekage puppet towards the downed Sakura, to finish her.

The puppet opened its sleeve to reveal a long scythe that would slice Sakura in half. It was not until the last second that made both Chiyo relax from their position. Sakura got up and managed to smash the Kazekage puppet just like she did with the first one. Sasori watched as Sakura went over to Chiyo apparently not bothered by a deadly poison running through her system right now. Sasori's creation was made so that not even his own grandmother would be able to create a suitable antidote. The puppet master looked baffled as he wondered about the possible reason. He saw that Sakura was using medical chakra to heal his grandmother.

"So she's a medic-nin as well and from Konoha…" The image of Tsunade in jounin clothing suddenly appeared in his mind, making Sasori wide his eyes in revelation. "She was the one who made an antidote."

(Author Note: I will not bother doing the rest of the fight…it happened the same as in canon)

With five puppets left and Chiyo already unconscious, as she has used all her chakra in keeping her ten-puppet technique, Sakura looked at the situation at hand and cursed the heavens. She withstood well so far, but it appeared that she could not do much to get her out of this mess. Sasori, for his part, was enjoying every second of it as he finally had to take care of these two for good. He was already feeling embarrassed because he had to show every trick he had gathered up to this point and against two kunoichi. Now he could finish this and simply forget that this episode existed in the first place. The little girl was almost unconscious. It didn't take five seconds for her eyes to widen in surprise and then fell on the ground unconscious.

The last five puppets began to stir from their position…and much to Sasori's surprise; all five were smashed to pieces. He looked down in shock to see black senbon piercing his only human part.

"I have to say, Sasori of the Red Sand, that your reputation precedes you. However, my mission is to protect them and make sure you don't escape here alive." Sasori was astonished to see the person in front of him. It was just impossible for anyone to slip by him without him noticing. Naruto, for his part, managed to execute his plan perfectly. He used two senbon one containing a sleeping agent and another, a small antidote that will use in conjunction to the one Sakura already injected into herself, strengthening it. He then used his agility and Sasori's lack of attention, thus using his Meiton Kuro Senbon (Dark Release: Dark Needle Technique) concocted with the same poison he had got from Sasori's senbon earlier, with a special treat that he believed Sasori would remember the creator. The puppet master flinched when he sensed the poison entering in his system. Sasori always prided himself on letting go of emotions and certainly, nostalgia was not what he felt right now.

If there was one person out there that posed the same threat as he did in regards to poison was she.

"...it's been fifteen years since i last felt it. There is no question about it." Naruto smiled remembering a specific conversation he had with his sensei. She was sure that Sasori would recognize the one time he fell victim to the one art that made him so ruthless in the past. Sasori cursed that woman's existence for a second and last time. It was weird of her to pick on an apprentice, but from what he could see from this individual, Sasori could attest to his potential. "You must have been here since the battle began, did you not?" Naruto merely nodded, earning a smile in respect. "There were times in this battle when I could have killed these two and yet you managed to conceal your presence masterfully, like a true shinobi." Naruto now found himself not quite knowing what to do or respond. He never had received any praise from an enemy.

But then again, Sasori had many things in common with him and his sensei. In a sense, Naruto was hearing praise from his sensei, though the woman never did that.

"I have means of knowing when someone is in immediate danger or not. Many of those situations you so called were in fact just deception on their part. In addition, by extracting the poison from one of your senbon, I was able to use one of Kaori-sensei's medicines to concoct an antidote. Sure, it was not the same level as the one used just now, but enough to get her into a hospital for treatment." The noise that Sasori was emitting by now was similar to a puppet needing some oil in its joints. Nevertheless, this strange individual that appeared all of a sudden had him beaten. Simply stating that he used his entire repertoire and chakra beforehand would simply be a juvenile excuse, not fitting to an S-ranked shinobi who should be prepared for almost everything. Certainly, some had tried using others in the past to get to him, but all of them failed.

"I suppose it's fitting for my end to be met by someone worthy of the word 'shinobi'. I would be rolling in my grave if either of these two managed to defeat me using such blunt methods." Naruto looked at the puppet and could see trails of blood falling from his heart, damaged because of the poison running through the structure. "I suppose that my death should not be an obstacle to everything I managed in my life. Art is supposed to be everlasting after all. I will give you the location of my secret base as a reward for defeating me."

The last statement surprised Naruto as he engraved the location of the base in his mind, while seeing the puppet lose function in front of him.

His senses indicated the absence of chakra so Naruto allowed himself some reprieve before turning to Chiyo and Sakura. Quickly summoning some skeleton bunshins who carried both out of the cave, Naruto took one last look at Sasori in sudden alarm. Imagining the entire conversation to be just trickery, he prepared himself for a fight before his senses drawn his attention to Sasori's hand, more importantly, the ring located on his thumb as it was pulsing with chakra, strangely not Sasori's. Quickly taking it out of Sasori's finger, he focused his own chakra into the ring for a while, hoping to find out what it did. He was surprised when he felt the chakra of someone else. This person, whoever it was, was powerful. He could feel the person's chakra crashing like waves on a storm. The feeling stopped and Naruto took the ring with him out of the cave. He needed to take Sakura and Chiyo back to safety, but the feeling perturbed the spy-nin.

If he had stayed a couple seconds more inside the cave, he would have spotted a plant like man emerge from the ground to look for the ring.

***Deidara's fight***

Like Kakashi suspected, Deidara was not down for the count yet and still managed to be quite the nuisance for him and Temari. It all changed, however, when Gai's team appeared to back them up, all of them covered with bruises from their respective fights. The mad bomber looked at the opposition in front of him and knew he would not be able to defeat all of them and still escape. He hated it but the situation called for a quick getaway. He was sure that his old man Sasori would scold him for life because of it, but at least he would be alive to practice his art another day. Taking advantage of an attack from Temari, Deidara used an evasion technique and went for the downed clay bird, chopped into pieces.

"I will not be denied my art." Said the mad bomber as he bit into the clay and ate a large piece of it.

The action surprised everyone, before the iwa-nin began to inflate. Both Neji and Kakashi, with their respective dojutsu, could see the amount of energy gathered in one place inside his stomach. The amount of blast radius usually caused by a tiny portion of clay multiplied by a hundred would cause a big enough explosion to take out all of Konoha's team instantly. No one would be able to escape from it. Kakashi needed to use that Mangenkyou technique once more. However, he was far too late as Deidara opened his mouth.

"Like I said before, art is a blast".

Everyone closed their eyes, just waiting for the inevitable when they heard a different noise than an explosion. It was the utmost swift sound of sword cutting flesh, before Deidara's head rolled on the floor. The look on his face contained nothing but surprise as an Anbu shinobi from Konohagakure appeared next to it, placing his ninjato inside the scabbard. Sasuke had moved with all its efficiency honed inside the Anbu Headquarters, gaining a swift kill of an S-ranked criminal. Right now, it was impossible not to feel an ego boost. He turned to his peers while taking a scroll from inside his pants pocket to give it to Kakashi.

"Hokage's orders were for me to tail you and provide security should the need arise. Our mission was also to eliminate the Akatsuki members that kidnapped the Ichibi Jinchuuriki." Kakashi grabbed the scroll and opened it, before nodding at the assignment. He knew the Anbu operative to be his student Sasuke, but the others clearly did not. Well Neji could have, using the byakugan, but the recently promoted jounin was too tired of chakra to use it. Kakashi's mind though made the connection to what Sasuke implied by 'our mission' and realized that another had assisted Sakura and Chiyo against Sasori of the Red Sand. He just hoped that everything went accordingly. He also assumed Sasuke to be the presence he felt when they were battling against Itachi earlier.

The scarecrow jounin reacted to a girlish frightened scream that echoed in the clearing just as two skeletons marched towards the group with Chiyo and Sakura on its shoulders.

Tenten was hiding behind Lee, shaking in her boots at the frightening figure. Kakashi could not help but smile recognizing who would be able to use these strange bunshins. Therefore, Naruto was Sasuke's partner in this mission. He was the one who enjoyed such theatrics and looking from Tenten's reaction, Naruto must be showing a whicked smile right about now somewhere close. The skeletons placed Chiyo and Sakura, before turning to Kakashi. In Tenten's opinion, the skeleton's cold voice was even more terrifying than its appearance.

"Both of them are stable, but suffering from chakra exhaustion. Sasori of the Red Sand was dealt with." The bones suddenly lost their cohesion and fell on the floor. Sasuke took the distraction and vanished as well.

One second later, Temari came screaming at the group.

"What happened to Sakura? She needs to check on my brother." Kakashi looked at her, urging her to calm down and explain what happened. "I thought that he was just unconscious and would wake up any time soon, but I…he is not breathing and I can't feel a pulse. Sakura is a medic-nin isn't she? She must see to Gaara immediately." Kakashi and Neji now used their dojutsu at Gaara's location and frowned. Both looked at each other for a while, before Kakashi nodded at him resolutely. He always hated these situations and he hated more when he had to be the one to do it.

"Temari, Sakura has suffered a lot against Sasori and is now unconscious. However, even if she was up and running, there isn't much we can do about Gaara, I'm afraid."

"….what you mean?" Temari was hyperventilating now, speaking in hiccups as she had taken the other's solemn looks. Kakashi placed a hand on her shoulder.

"Gaara is dead, Temari." It had taken two seconds for her eyes to widen, before she closed her eyes and fell on the ground. It just was too much for her to bear now, fighting S-ranked criminals against time to save her precious little brother only to realize it was too late and she could not do anything about it. Kakashi, for his part, theorized that Gaara was killed the moment that they entered that cave. Assuming that Akatsuki had already taken the demon from inside, death would undoubtedly follow the host. Deidara was indeed speaking the truth before, not just to goad Temari into a fight. The mission was a failure. Even if two Akatsuki agents were dealt with, they had lost the ones they were supposed to find and retrieve.

A failure in Kakashi's book, no doubt. In addition, would be even worse had Jiraiya-sama not sent Sasuke and Naruto as backup.

***Author Note***

With Chiyo unconscious, she could not use her life transfer ninjutsu on Gaara, meaning that he was not resurrected.

Please review and sorry for all Gaara fans out there.