Without Uchiha Sasuke
The voice of his only female team mate broke the Nara out of his thoughts.
"Are you sure about this?"
The Nara sighed and shook his head.
"At this point, there is nothing we can be sure of."
"It is the only way." Came the voice of the former Kazekage as he stepped into the same cave as the Konoha team minus Heni.
"Your father has notified us of an attack imminent on Konoha. It cannot be a coincidence that Hyuuga-san's Byakugan has suddenly managed to sight what seems to be Akasuna-no-Sasori heading towards Suna."
"It is very likely, that the Akatsuki are attacking the shinobi villages, in order to draw out their jinchuuriki."
And of course, where Gaara went, his siblings were likely to follow.
"But you resigned."
"Yes, I did. And it is clear that Uzumaki is not in Konoha either. But it isn't stopping them."
"If this attack is concerted, which I am inclined to agree with. It also means that, even if they don't draw out the Jinchuuriki. Even if they don't succeed in capturing the bijuu. Then they severely dent the villages' fighting power."
"Which in turn, means that this is simply an escalation to the real endgame."
Ino stared at everyone.
There were words flying around, but she didn't understand anything.
"What they mean is. We were getting the villages together. They want to stop that from happening. So they killed our spymaster. Now, they want to kill as many shinobi possible, so that even if we do join up, there isn't as many of us as before. If that draws the jinchuuriki to the villages, and they capture them, then it's a bonus."
Said Temari, stating it in simpler terms for the other female to take in.
Now this, Ino understood.
"So, the only solution is to go out and meet them?"
"Not the only solution. But the solution with the least casualties. This way, at most, it is us who die, and not the hundreds or thousands in the village."
Hisemi took that moment to look Shikamaru in his eyes.
"Looks like they've taken the bait. They're almost here."
With an air of authority, like a director ready to get the show on the road, Nara Shikamaru stood up and clapped his hands.
"Alright people, places. The show is about to begin."
These Konoha nin were absolute rookies.
The lookout was young.
And obviously inexperienced.
He had only kept out an eye out for anyone coming from land.
He hadn't kept an eye out on the sky.
And that had been what had allowed Deidara the upper hand.
The Akatsuki had swept in from above, on top of one of his clay birds, and simply bombed the lookout into oblivion.
His clay gouged craters out of the ridge the child had sat on.
And immediately Sasori was away, rocketing down towards the cave system that obviously existed somewhere inside the ravine.
7 more to go.
Explosions rocked his surroundings as Akasuna no Sasori rocketed down towards the ravine.
Deidara wasn't letting up on his barrage.
But it was needed.
Sasori would have a hard time fighting 7 nin all by himself.
He needed some to be drawn towards the Mad Bomber.
The true beauty of art was in its immortality.
But as he saw a Suna nin jump on top of the ravine, he knew that even Deidara's outlook of art, had it's own uses.
A spike of sand shot out of the ground at him and Sasori rolled mid-air to avoid it.
It seemed he had found his quarry.
A smile adorned his face as he rushed rolled mid-air to avoid the spike, pushing off of it to dash straight towards the Kazekage.
Nothing he loved more than a hunt.
But it was absolutely the best when the prey, fought for their lives.
If it wasn't evident at the moment of sight, it was now.
Gaara knew the physical capabilities of a shinobi, and altering trajectory without the use of a jutsu was near impossible in mid-air.
A motion of his hands created a spike of sand, the jutsu familiar enough not to require its invocation.
And like every spike he created, this one was dodged as well.
Taking a step back, Gaara slammed his palms together, the sand that covered the walls of the ravine rushing to squash Sasori within the palms it had formed.
The blow landed, yet it only managed to slow Sasori down.
The cloth covering over the mouth of the puppet fell, dozens of senbon flying out of the launcher that hid within.
Gaara knew they were poisoned, and probably with Sasori's own poison.
Forced to act defensively, the Kazekage let the palms that held Sasori immobile fall, slamming his hands onto the ground in front of him instead, willing a wall to rise up between him and the onrushing projectiles.
However, the wall didn't stop Sasori himself and Gaara was forced to launch himself backwards as the puppet smashed through the wall with his heavy left arm.
The Ichibi no Jinchuuriki gritted his teeth.
He hadn't expected this to be easy, considering Sasori was both a Suna legend, as well as an S ranked nin.
But he hadn't expected to be put this much on the defensive either.
Gaara dodged a punch, and a swipe of the right hand, razor blades coming out of each of its fingers as the hand took a swipe at him.
A swipe of his own hand summoned a wave of sand that knocked Sasori further away.
But like his other attempts, this did not last long.
There were advantages to fighting in the ravine.
But to a long to medium range fighter like Gaara, there were also disadvantages against someone like Sasori, who wanted to be up close and personal.
Yet this time, Sasori seemed to be faster.
The Kazekage's eyes widened as Sasori's right slammed into his automatic defense.
And then, the panic set in.
Sasori loved the panicked look in the Kazekage's eyes.
The knowledge that he had met his match.
And this, was what caused Sasori to push his advantage.
Adding one more chakra thread to Hiroko, Sasori threw himself at Gaara faster than he had before.
This time, choosing to slam his heavy left arm into the Kazekage.
But as always, Gaara's absolute defense kicked in.
This was exactly what Sasori wanted.
A single twitch of a chakra thread, and Hiroko's left arm exploded in a shower of senbon, firing them in multiple directions.
Some of them made it through the sand already protecting Gaara, and the proximity of the explosion, sent the Ichibi no Jinchuuriki sprawling on to the ravine floor.
The red haired teen struggled to stand, no doubt already affected by the poison Sasori had coated the senbon in.
Not the time to gloat in victory, Sasori mentally reminded himself.
There were 6 Shinobi fighting Deidara.
The moment Gaara's chakra signature dimmed, they'd know something was wrong, and they'd come rushing.
He needed to be finished before help arrived.
It wasn't until Hiroko's tail penetrated Gaara's chest, that Sasori realized that he may have never truly been fighting the Kazekage after all.
The instant the metal tail pierced the 'Gaara' puppet, Kankuro sprang into action.
Wooden puppet hands locked onto Sasori, channeling Raiton chakra through seals integrated into it's palms.
The chakra stunned the real Sasori inside Hiroko, destroying the chakra threads that he had connected.
It bought Kankuro enough time to bring out Kuroari from underground.
Its multiple arms, wrapping around Hiroko, the saw blades within them, buzzing as they tried to cut their way through the hard shell on Hiroko's back.
Wind chakra enhanced saw blades, Sasori mused.
It seemed as if it wasn't just him that had modified his puppets into something unpredictable.
Recreating his chakra threads, Sasori made to pull Hiroko out of the hold.
Yet some unseen weight, stronger and heavier than anything he could muster from Hiroko kept him in place.
The creaking of Hiroko's shell, plus what seemed like massive fingers finding the edge of Hiroko's shield, warned Sasori of an imminent breach in his defences.
Hiroko was as good as gone, and Sasori found himself jumping out of Hiroko, the compartment in his back open, looking for the Third Kazekage puppet that he always had, close to him.
Through the corner of his eye, Sasori registered an Akimichi dismantling his puppet, while he watched the last rays of sunlight disappear, as sand encased the entire ravine.
The fact that he could no longer move, sealed his fate.
Where there was an Akimichi, there had to be a Nara.
And with the Kazekage being so nice to cover the entire battleground in shadow, there was nothing deadlier than a Nara.
The one question that remained, was answered as soon as the Hyuuga stepped in front of him, his hand reaching out towards Sasori's heart.
So that was it.
The lookout had been bait.
They had known Sasori and Deidara were coming.
They had chosen the battlefield.
And more importantly, they had known that both Hiroko and Sasori were puppets.
And that the only way of defeating Akasuno no Sasori, was to remove his heart from his puppet.
Deidara grimaced as he maneuvered his bird around, trying to find an angle from which he could see Sasori.
He had known something was wrong the moment only one Suna nin jumped up to face him.
He had waited for a little while, understanding that not everyone had as good reaction times as others, and that their positioning may have played a part in them being late to confront him.
But when it had been just her, for a few minutes, he knew something was up.
His gut feelings grew stronger when the Suna kunoichi tried her best to keep him from diving down into the ravine.
And her wind jutsu, meant that he had enough trouble staying in the air much less be able to fly around and look for his partner.
A blast from inside the ravine caught his attention, holding it long enough to watch the ravine be blocked off by a wall of sand.
A mop of red hair jumped up from the ravine, a telltale gourd on his back signified that it was the Kazekage.
Which meant that Sasori, was dead or trapped down there.
The fact that it was just the Kazekage and one other, that jumped up, gave him the confidence that just maybe, Sasori hadn't died just yet.
In which case, it meant that Sasori was in trouble.
And that meant he'd be looking for a way out.
Another blast of wind rocked the bird he stood on.
Instantly replied with by a few explosions, all of them on a wall of sand that protected the Kunoichi.
Deidara grimaced again.
There was no village, and no others he could target.
The Kazekage was well capable of defending himself, and a couple of others from Deidara's bombs, and that minimized his effectiveness in battle.
Using his chakra once again, Deidara maneuvered his bird, looking for an end to the sand wall, looking for a place that Sasori might make his escape from.
Somewhere that Deidara could pick his partner up and retreat, fight another day, on better terms.
A massive explosion brought Deidara's eyes towards the beginning of the ravine, the sprawling form of Sasori rocketing out of whatever trap he was lured into.
The man ran, towards the desert, two nin, and what it seemed like a few puppets, chasing after him.
The scene made up Deidara's mind for him.
The Ichibi could be captured later.
But right now, he needed to get Sasori and leave.
The small explosion the tiny clay spider made worried Deidara.
It worried Deidara very much.
"Ah, so that's how it works."
It was very weird, and definitely discomforting to watch his body move, and hear his voice talk.
"It's a very nice ability you have. And all these different types of clay, they are of different potencies?"
"Very nice, very nice."
Deidara didn't know how, but he was now stuck in Sasori's body.
And he was very sure it wasn't Sasori that was in his.
All he remembered was saving Sasori's puppet body from certain death.
Only to be attacked by it.
Deidara was a long ranged nin, but it did not, by any means, mean that he was a slouch at close combat.
His reactions had won, and he had stabbed the puppet.
And that was when he had been 'pulled' from his own body and into this puppet.
What had likely happened, was the he had switched consciousnesses with the puppet.
And as far as he knew, puppets didn't have a consciousness.
Deidara wanted to talk, but he couldn't.
He had so many questions he wanted to ask.
But he couldn't.
Now that he thought about it, maybe he should have accepted those chakra thread lessons Sasori had been willing to give.
Maybe then, he would have been able to use the body he now inhabited.
And how he wished he could.
"Looks like it's been enough time for my friends to clear out of the blast radius."
There was a sweet lilt to the sentence, as he found himself staring into his own eyes.
The nin smiled, something he could only imagine a girl doing, as he took off his shirt, and unstitched the mouth that was implanted into his chest.
And as he watched himself feed it the C0 clay he saved up for his most dangerous techniques, Deidara felt fear.
Fear that was amplified as he watched himself pull the puppet into his arms, before putting his hands into a cancel seal.
His body wasn't canceling the suicide technique it had just started off.
No, whoever was in his body, was leaving.
Done with their jobs.
They were leaving.
And soon, nothing would remain of both Deidara and Sasori.
Nothing, but a 10 kilometre wide explosion radius.
And for the first time, Deidara knew what it was like, to face death.
"Is it done?"
Asked Shikamaru as soon as Ino woke up, and the kunoichi nodded.
The campsite was quiet.
"Half an hour rest. We make for Konoha."
I am very sorry, for the really really long hiatus.
But life sucks, and it's been tough.
So I've been finding it hard to find motivation, as well as ideas to go with for fights.
I know that the fights weren't really fights.
But, that's really how Shikamaru fights, isn't it?
I also, somewhat wrote this chapter to ease myself in to this again.
Partly because I couldn't figure out a good way to begin what I have in store next.
Also, I wanted to ask a favor from you all.
I have had a new story out for a while, at least a single chapter.
Personally, it interests me, but it is a challenge, that requires reader submitted OCs.
So please, give it a read, and submit some OC so I can get to putting my brain to good use.