Heir of the Sage

Disclaimer: Naruto is solely the possession of Kishimoto, alas I only own the computer I used to write a story based on his wonderful work.

Summary: When Naruto is learning how to use his Elemental Affinity from Yamato and Kakashi, they end up with far more than they bargained for! Now Naruto is armed with the abilities of the First Hokage, how will he deal with his enemies? Mokuton!Naruto AU

Author's Notes: I seem to keep putting off the confrontation with Itachi. I guess I underestimated the amount of content there was in the manga between the Zombie Brothers Arc and the Itachi and Sasuke conflict…

Also, in this chapter you'll notice that the Konoha teams managed to find a lot more trouble than they did in canon. Well, this is what happens when you have a team on the calibre of the parents! (If you see any problems with formatting or the layout, tell me! The website's being really irritating with that at the moment...)

Chapter Eight: Art is a Bang

Earlier In The Day

Kisame smiled, showing his shark-like teeth, "Well, the Yonbi is sealed. Quicker than I thought too."

Itachi nodded, "It did not take long because the Jinchuriki used the Biju inside himself very often. The demon's chakra was hovering just under the surface of his own."

"The job is done," Pain informed them, "However, I have news… Orochimaru, the man who betrayed us, is dead."

"Oh?" Kisame's smile grew bigger, "How did he die?"

The woman at Pain's side responded for him, "That boy Sasuke Uchiha killed him," she said. "And he is coming for you Itachi."

"Konan is correct," Pain continued calmly, "He and his comrades are attempting to kill you."

"Comrades?" Itachi said in reply, a note of confusion in his voice, "He returned to Konoha?"

"… No. He has joined forces with Juugo of Tenpin, a sensor ninja by the name of Karin, and one of the Houzuki brothers of Kiri," Pain informed them slowly, "You should watch your back."

"Sasuke Uchiha, eh?" Deidara smirked, "Maybe I should neutralise him before he becomes a problem." He noticed Itachi's eyes turn to face him with blankly, and he felt a pulse of satisfaction. 'If I kill Sasuke Uchiha, that'll wipe the smugness off of Itachi's face when he sees me next.'

"Before you leave however, I should tell you that I have heard a disturbing rumour."

"A rumour?" asked Tobi interestedly, "Like gossip? What kind?"

"Rumour has it that the Kyuubi Jinchuriki has been using the Mokuton," Pain told them with evident distaste, "I had hoped that bloodline was extinct."

"The Mokuton, eh?" Deidara asked rhetorically, "How interesting."

"Really Deidara-senpai?" Tobi interjected hyperactively, "Has he got your attention?"

"Yeah," Deidara responded with a grin, "He's got my attention."

"Good," Pain replied approvingly, "But if you challenge him, make sure you don't kill him. We need to capture him last, and we can only extract the demon while he is alive…"

Present Time

The group of eight ninja (and a dog) stood on the orange-tiled roof of an empty house. From the look of the burns around the windows and their ruptured wooden frames, there had been a large explosion from inside. Probably the work of the Kumo ninja who had managed to infiltrate the command centre, only to kill everyone inside with a suicide technique.

Sakura finally took the time to inspect their new comrades, and fellow ninja, and she could not help but feel a bit of excitement for working alongside such renowned greats. After all, before them stood Hiashi Hyuuga, Shibi Aburame, and Tsume Inuzuka.

Kakashi addressed all of them with a slight cough, "Alright then… to start off, we'll each be going in a different direction. We will be heading to a maximum of five kilometres in our search," he explained, "By doing this we'll be fanning out in all directions."

"But Kakashi-sensei," Sakura protested, "Our radios won't reach that far! If one of us gets in trouble and finds both Akatsuki, it'd be bad news. Also, it's standard procedure for a patrolling ninja to travel with at least one comrade…"

Hiashi Hyuuga nodded stiffly, "She is correct. And we should be following the ninja code strictly while dealing with ninja of Itachi's calibre."

Kakashi hummed in agreement, "That's true. That's why my dog summons will be useful. They can communicate at long distances and they are specialised tracking summons," he replied with a formal nod to Hiashi, "Not to mention that Yamato will be staying here and communicating with us individually over our radios."

Yamato nodded, "Good idea. I would be able to provide adequate back up to any team too, as I will be at an equal distance to everyone." Sakura and Hiashi seemed to be appeased by this answer, and all protests were silenced.

"It's a shame Yamato's not coming," Naruto complained to Sai, "He won't be able to see how much his training's helped me to improve!"

Sai nodded in reply, "You can show him how much better you've become when we get back to Konoha."

"You are being optimistic," Shibi cut in, "If we encounter the Akatsuki there is a high chance that none of us are going to return to our homes."

"That's just pessimistic Aburame," Tsume chuckled dryly, her husky voice acting as evidence that she used to smoke, "Anyhow; you might be calling on him kid, so you never know!"

Tsume's dog Kuromaru, grumbled his agreement.

While they chatted amiably Kakashi swiftly summoned his group of ninja dogs, a cloud of smoke activating around his person, "Good to see you," he greeted. Kakashi had summoned numerous beasts, and beside him sat a pack of dogs of different breeds.

Naruto waved at the lone dog on Kakashi's soldier, "Hey Pakkun!"

Pakkun, the pug dog, grinned a toothy grin in reply, "Good to see you, and you too Sakura-chan! Do you still use the same shampoo? It seems like it because your hair is just as glossy as my coat…" Sakura blushed deeply at the idea of sharing a shampoo with Pakkun, but her embarrassment was quickly forgotten with the arrival of her canine companions.

A yappity small dog with the appearance similar to a fox scampered towards her, "You can count on me, Sakura-chan!" it barked. Its fur was a pale orange, and its eyes were wide and frantically looking around.

Another padded towards her, "That guy is so annoying," he explained to her. "He never shuts up!" The newcomer was a lazy-eyed basset hound, with long floppy ears and a leaf-marking branded on it's forehead in its fur.

Shibi did not wait for the dogs to approach him, and he strode towards a pair of dogs that had not yet howled a word. One was a small dog with creamy shaggy fur and a sad face (framed with a Konoha headband), and the other was a short-haired terrier who stood at the ready, his eyes covered by sunglasses not dissimilar to Shibi's own.

"Good to see you again, Shibi-san," the dog with the glasses muttered. The other dog did not say anything, but simply followed.

Sai waited to see which dogs were remaining and blinked when he saw two (less groomed) dogs approach him automatically. One growled at him in greeting, the other sniffed at his kunai pouch. "Nice to meet you," he greeted uncertainly.

Naruto watched the dogs move about, and he looked at Kakashi uncertainly, "What about me?"

Kakashi gestured for the pit-bull on his right to accompany Naruto, and the dog lumbered towards him. "Because Akatsuki's after you, Hiashi will be accompanying you for extra support. You'll both be travelling with the big guy here."

The pit-bull sat between Naruto and Hiashi, and gave a boomingly loud "Woof!"

"And lastly, I will be travelling with Pakkun, as Tsume is working with Kuromaru," Kakashi explained, with a nod towards Tsume and her partner. Kuromaru himself as an enormous dog with dark blue fur. It's appearance was that of a warrior, as an eye-patch covered a missing eye, and its left ear had clearly been torn off in a fight years ago.

Kuromaru muttered, "Obviously." It had become proficient at the use of sarcasm when it had been through the process of training Kiba's dog Akamaru the way of human speech. It had not gone well.

"Is that alright, everyone?" Kakashi ignored Kuromaru's reply. When he received no response from the gathered ninja, he heaved a sigh. "Great. Now remember: Despite the fact that our mission said it was to capture Itachi Uchiha, our real mission is as follows: Follow Sasuke Uchiha's scent, and if needed, use force to bring him home."

The group nodded once in reply.

"If you happen to come across the Akatsuki, make sure you flee and return to the base so that you can be given aid from another group," Kakashi implored them. The orders finished, he raised his hand to signal the start of the mission- and each of the groups shot in seven different directions.

Two large bird-like creatures plummeted through the sky at dangerously high speeds, each with a cloaked man riding the back of them. The creatures were a plain beige colour, and had strange blank eyes of the same shade. They landed heavily, and the figures of Deidara and Tobi landed in the midst of a grassy plain just outside of a heavily forested area of Fire Country.

Deidara grinned at his partner, and clapped his clay-bird on the side gratefully, "See Tobi? It was no problem to get here at all, hmm…" he said with a smirk.

Tobi ignored him, "So which one are you after Senpai? They're both in the same area after all! Is it Sasuke Uchiha, or the Kyuubi?"

Deidara simply cackled, and jumped onto the back of his clay bird, "I wonder…" he teased Tobi playfully, "I wonder which I'll go for." The bird took off at top speeds, and Tobi's bird took off after him.

Deidara pondered his options as they flew over the treetops of the dense forest beneath them, "Should I defeat my rival's technique: the Sharingan, or test the Jinchuriki?" He considered his options for a moment, and decided with a devious grin, "Which ever one I find first!"

Sakura and her dogs had taken the path to the North-East, one that would take them straight through a deep forested area. According to the map she had read before they had left, it would take her directly to the closest town. 'I wonder if that's where Sasuke may have been,' she pondered, 'But it's strange to think he would stray so close to Konoha if he doesn't want to come home…'

The yappity dog screeched to a halt, its nose stuck to the ground. Sakura stopped in her tracks too, "What's wrong? What's the matter?" she asked worriedly.

The basset hound looked her squarely in the eye, "He's found something."

Yappity barked, "Sakura-chan, Sakura-chan! It's Sasuke Uchiha's scent!"

Basset laughed, "That was easier than I thought!"

Sakura's eyes widened in surprise, "… You're telling me…" she muttered, "Hey Yamato-taichou, can you hear me?"

Yamato had been sitting in the building patiently. It had taken moments to settle into the derelict village, and he forced himself to ignore the discomfort he was feeling- he was sitting comfortably in a place which years earlier had been the place that at least ten Konoha ninja had been blown up and burnt alive. Yamato composed himself, and started to work on the contraption he had set up before him.

It was a table of knobs, dials and switches. It was a piece of state of the art equipment that was ideal for situations like these- it was lucky that Hiashi, Shibi and Tsume had agreed to join them really. After all, if they had not, they would not have been allowed to take such useful technology with them. As it was, it was only being used to insure the safety of the gathered clan heads.

Yamato set all of the receivers to neutral, and waited for the first person to contact him. And he waited. He almost jumped at the loud BZZZZT that erupted from one of the sound speakers on the transmitter. He flicked the switch, and saw that it was coming from the North-East. Sakura's location.

Another "bzzt" accompanied Sakura's transmission to the base, #Hey Yamato-taichou, can you hear me?#

"Reading you loud and clear Sakura," Yamato acknowledged good-naturedly, "What have you got?"

#One of the dogs has picked up a trace of Sasuke-kun's scent, so I might be onto something here.#

"Understood Sakura, pursue carefully! When the dogs say that you're close, make sure you try and sense for the person with the largest chakra stores. You never know what kind of disguises Sasuke might have," Yamato advised, "Is that all?"

#That's all, boss!#

"Alright. Stay in touch, I'll pass the information on now," Yamato informed her.


Yamato turned off his radio contact to Sakura, and flicked many switches, "Can you hear me everyone? Sakura has found a trace of Sasuke Uchiha's scent, and she is in pursuit, however it might be a dud. Stay on each of your courses, and make sure to stay in touch."

Deidara and Tobi glided through the skies of Fire Country lazily, until Diedara, like Sakura, was in luck. "Hey Tobi, looks like I found something," Deidara had been using the contraption he had built over his left eye to seek out people on the land below him- a device named the Hawkeye that made searching for targets easier than ever.

"Really? That was quick," Tobi praised in astonishment, "Who is it?"

His partner smirked, "Wait and see!" Thus, Deidara led Tobi towards their target: Which either way, was one of the founding families of Konoha. One being the heir of the Senju and one being a survivor of the Uchiha.

Sakura and the dogs had traced the scent towards the small, but busy town she had found on the map earlier. It was clearly a market day of some kind, as shouts of prices and various vegetables made her deaf to the noises the subtlest of ninja would make. She tutted in annoyance, "Anything new?"

Yappity jumped at her voice, "The scent isn't clear, but we're definitely getting closer."

Basset hound rolled his eyes, "So what does it mean if the scent isn't clear?"

"It means that the scent isn't exact, but a trace of it is close!" Yappity the dog yipped with excitement, "And it's even closer now!"

"How close?" Sakura asked discretely.

Yappity looked incredulous, "The scent's moving away!"

Sakura bit her lip, "Right. I'll try to sense who it could be." In the time she had spent training with Yamato and Naruto, she had started to cover the team's weaknesses: sensing and genjutsu. Sakura stopped moving, and stayed as still as she could in the middle of the market. She blocked out the sounds of the stall owners, and the crowd that thrashed around her.

And she could sense a person who could very well be a ninja. A small chakra-capacity person had walked past her moments ago. A chakra low enough that under normal circumstances it could be ignored. "They're somewhere behind us," she told the dogs, "It's not Sasuke, but it's someone who's been with him! Look for them, and hurry!"

The dogs followed her instruction, and darted forwards through the crowds. Sakura followed slightly slower, and pressed a finger to her radio headset, "Yamato-taichou? I'm pinning down the trace of the scent. It's not Sasuke, but it might be one of the people from the team he's building. I'm going to engage the target!"

Basset hound barked loudly, "We've found her!"

Sakura's eyes found Basset hound and the 'her'in question. It was a girl of a similar age with messy red hair, and thick rimmed glasses. Sakura grinned, "I've got you."

The girl's face blanched paler than it already was, and she sprinted away through the haphazard market stalls hastily. "Yamato, I'm pursuing! She's a girl of similar height to me; she has red hair and thick rimmed black glasses. Low chakra reserve, so she could be a sensor or medic-nin."

#Sakura, be careful. Even though she might be a medical ninja, she could still be just as dangerous as you. Or even more so.# Yamato's voice warned her through her receiver.

"Not damn likely," Sakura responded grimly, "If she won't tell me what I want to know, I'm going to kill her."

Yamato sighed down the line, #Be careful. Do you want Shibi or Tsume to back you up? #

"I will be careful," Sakura promised, "And I don't need them really. It's not like this is Sasuke, I'll be fine."

Sai had taken to the air to search for Sasuke shortly after he had heard that Sakura had found traces of his scent in town. His reasoning had been that Sasuke would never go to a busy place in Fire Country, just in case he ran into Konoha ninja. This meant that Sasuke would likely be lurking somewhere abnormal, and that he likely had one of his cronies go into town.

So Sai had drawn a fantastical beast to ride upon- an inked eagle. The eagle was a well built creature with a broad body and long wings. The two dogs that had accompanied him were following on the ground, and he had made sure to keep them in sight- just in case he needed some help. Not that it was likely.

The rain had blown by, (luckily, as his inked techniques would wash away from the water) and now the day was hot, humid and damp. Sai wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead, and placed a hand above his eye line to block the sun and stop its interference with his eyesight. What shocked Sai now was that nobody else had noticed the enormous explosions ahead and that a member of Akatsuki was aboard his own flying contraption… that seemed to be made of mud.

#Sakura is pursuing a female ninja who is likely in league with Sasuke. She thinks that she can handle the situation, so I'm going to let her- however… all response units should be at the ready to provide back-up.#

Sai frowned, 'She's not found the Uchiha then? Irritating.' He continued onwards, towards the explosions and danger that awaited him, and finally… he took notice of Sasuke Uchiha, who seemed to be fighting an Akatsuki pair that was definitely not the team of Itachi and Kisame. Sai cursed the weather, and then he cursed his bad luck. 'How typical that I have the misfortune of meeting this bastard a second time… and with the Akatsuki to boot.'

He detailed what was happening on paper, and dropped it to the forest floor in the form of an open scroll for the dogs to read, and he hoped they would dispel themselves to avoid getting hurt in the fight ahead. After all, it was likely that it would be brutal. He pressed a hand to his radio head set, "Yamato. I've found him. Sasuke Uchiha."

#You have?#

"I have," Sai confirmed, and he pulled a blank scroll from his side. "And he's being attacked by two members of Akatsuki. I'm going to engage the Akatsuki alongside him, but I need back-up now." He drew across the scroll fluidly.

#Which of the Akatsuki is it?# Sai could hear Yamato's worry across the radio waves. It was kind of him to worry.

"The active Akatsuki is blond and on some sort of flying monster. There are lots of explosions. The other Akatsuki is running around, and he has a bright orange mask."

#Be careful Sai. According to Kakashi that is the man known as Deidara, and he specialises in aerial combat and explosives. The masked man is unknown. Your back-up is on the way.# The worried tone was even more prominent now. #I advise you to stay back until your back-up gets there.#

"Naruto would never forgive me if I let Sasuke escape… or die. As his friend, this is my duty," Sai responded with the most emotion he had felt to date. "If Sakura can do her part, I can do mine."

Sasuke's friend had darted towards the forest, in the hopes that Sakura would not pursue her. She clearly did not know Sakura well enough. The ninja had jumped to the trees to hope to put her off further, but Sakura still pursued diligently.

Sakura channelled her chakra to her legs and stomach muscles, and felt her speed increase dramatically. The girl was still in her sights, and she was slower than her- but it didn't stop the bitch from being slippery. The speed boost blasted her to position behind the red-head, who squealed in fear. Sakura gave a battle cry and drop-kicked the girl from a tree branch, and the red-head tumbled to the floor like a sack of potatoes.

The girl scrambled around pitifully, "Who are you?" she stuttered, "What do you want?"

Sakura crossed her arms impatiently, "Drop the act. You know I'm from Konoha, and you know I'm chasing after Sasuke."

The girl snorted and got to her feet steadily, "Is that so?" she pushed her glasses back up her nose, and ruffled her hair. "So why did you come after me? Do I look like Sasuke to you?"

Sakura laughed incredulously, "You smell of him. You must have thrown yourself at him and rubbed his clothes all over your face to get such a strong scent."

"How dare you!" The girl screeched and flushed with embarrassment, "You're just jealous that Sasuke didn't return your feelings."

"I just want him to come home," Sakura replied disbelievingly, "This isn't a romantic quest. I want him to come home so things can be as they should be."

The girl ruffled her hair, "You know what? You need to get a life, my friend. Sasuke doesn't want to go to Konoha ever again. Get over it."

"Then if I cannot help Sasuke as a friend, I'll capture him as a ninja of Konoha. It's already been decided that we'd take him by force if we have to and the same goes for his comrades," Sakura spat, and she charged forwards.

The girl squealed again, and jumped backwards- only to back into a tree. The last thing she saw that day was Sakura's fist. Sakura sighed and pressed a hand to her head set again, "Yamato? I have her unconscious. A good thing I didn't ask for back up too, because she was useless."

#Great job Sakura, you had best bring her back to the base so that we can transport her back to Konoha when the others return.#

"Yes sir," Sakura muttered, and she disconnected the radio contact. She turned to the dogs and smiled weakly at them, "Come on boys, let's get back to the base."

"Fast as we can, Sakura-chan!" Yappity yelped, and he tore away from the group and headed back to where they came.

Basset hound sighed and followed behind at a trot, "Let's go then."

Sakura rolled her eyes at their behaviour and heaved the girl onto her shoulder, "Yeah… let's go."

Sai soared forwards on his ink eagle, and he ascended higher and higher into the sky. 'If I attack directly from the sun, it would impair their vision if they looked up at me.' The dragon monster that the Akatsuki was on shot clay explosives from its tail, and opened its mouth as if to roar. Of course, as it had no physical vocal chords, the effect was more comical than terrifying, but Sai knew better.

The dragon's massive wings propelled it backwards, directed by the blond man. Sai could see Sasuke now, and the Uchiha seemed to be using Kakashi's chidori (alongside advanced shape manipulation) to try and take down the dragon with a single hit.

The dragon swerved around and darted straight towards Sasuke, who leapt backwards a few metres in an attempt to put distance between himself and the giant explosive reptile. Sai circled the scene from above, making sure to keep both eyes and ears focused on the scene below.

"I don't care how strong your defensives are, this time you're gonna go flying, hm!" Deidara gloated viciously, "You'll be ultra-flat!" A large clay pig fell from the dragon's mouth just as it started to ascend upwards again, and an eruption of dirt and fire burst from where it hit the ground. Sasuke had barely dodged it, it seemed. The Uchiha, however was impacted by yet another explosion from what appeared to be a landmine.

"Did I get him?" Diedara wondered. The smoke blew away from the scene, and unveiled an unhurt Sasuke, who had wrapped a set of wings around his body protectively.

Sai looked down on the scene with interest, 'How strange. Those wings must be an evolution of the Cursed Seal.' The masked man reappeared from the ground, and Deidara ordered him away. 'He must be afraid of his subordinate getting hurt in the cross-fire,' Sai considered.

Sasuke opened his wings, and with a single push he started to move off of the ground.

Deidara's dragon swept towards him at top speed, "I'm clipping your wings now, you little bastard!" he roared.

Sasuke looked up in a moment of fear, "Shit!"

And an explosion enveloped them both. A dragon of Sai's own creation had met Deidara in the air, and it had set off an explosion of epic proportions. Ink rained from above, and spattered onto Sasuke. He dropped back to his knees, and looked up. He was speechless.

"I can't say I'm pleased to see you Uchiha," Sai drawled atop his eagle, "But a dead Akatsuki is a good Akatsuki, wouldn't you say?"

Sasuke looked past him, and focused his attention on Deidara instead. The Akatsuki seemed to be pulling himself together on the ground now, his dragon destroyed. Along with the landmines his partner had planted it seemed, as he had collided with them when he had hit the floor. "… Are they with you?" Sasuke had recognised him immediately so it seemed.

"You mean Naruto and Sakura?" Sai asked rhetorically, his pen swiftly working at a scroll again, "They're around."

Sasuke scowled, "I could have done this without you."

"Probably," Sai agreed with a faint smile, "Your friends speak highly of you though, so I figured it was best to avoid any injuries when possible."

The Uchiha walked past him, and drew his sword, "I don't want your help."

Deidara's attention had shifted onto Sai now, who looked back at him emotionlessly. Blood seeped from the blond's eye, dribbled from his mouth, and dripped from multiple wounds and gashes on his body. "Your eyes… even without the Sharingan, you look at me the same way!"

Sai blinked, "I do?"

"You think you're better than me," Deidara ranted bitterly, his bloodied eye showing signs of madness. "I'm better than you!"

"Okay then," Sai replied agreeably, his fake smile on his face.

Deidara yanked a clump of clay from a pouch on his leg, and chewed it. "I'm going to kill you with my most powerful attack!"

Sai looked at Sasuke, who glanced back at him. Sasuke flew straight into the sky, and Sai followed suit. Deidara spewed the clay from his mouth, and it splattered onto the floor in a sloppy textured mess. And then the mess grew. In a matter of mere seconds the liquid clay grew to an unimaginable size, and towered over the treetops. The clay eventually moulded into a giant Deidara.

"Shit, that's huge," Sasuke muttered, and he flapped his wings as fast as he could. "If that goes off, it'll take everything here with it!" Sai could not help but agree with him, (even if he wasn't a fan of the Uchiha, he definitely knew what he was talking about.) While they had attempted to outpace the giant Deidara, who had proceeded to run after them manically, Deidara himself had taken to the skies above them.

Sai frowned at that, and swerved around the giant Deidara and towards the real thing. Sasuke looked at him as if he were crazy, but continued to glide away regardless. 'He's not my responsibility,' he thought irately. The giant Deidara started to inflate like a balloon.

"What are you doing?" Deidara shouted furiously atop his clay-bird, "Get away from me!" Dozens of clay spiders shot forth from the bird's mouth, and exploded dangerously close to Sai each time. The giant inflated further, and a creamy drool started to drip from its mouth.

Sai glanced behind himself and saw that Sasuke had descended to the forest to escape by foot, 'Damn it, I'd hoped that I could stick by him to get him back to Sakura and Naruto… I guess I failed.'

And as if sensing Sai's disappointment, the giant Deidara exploded with a massive bang. The skin-like coating of the explosion disintegrated almost immediately, and animals of all kinds started to turn to dust in the area. Sai saw Sasuke get turned to dust before his very eyes.

Sasuke screamed, "Wha- No!" His skin was stripped away, revealing veins, organs and insides. Sai looked away from the pitiful sight and he locked eyes with Deidara.

"How did you know what to do?" Deidara asked him, his hand scarily close to the pouch of clay on his leg.

Sai shook the image of Sasuke being ripped apart from his head, "I knew you wouldn't kill yourself. I stayed at the same distance from the blast as you to avoid whatever that was."

"I might not have killed you with that," Deidara growled dangerously, "But I sure as hell killed him. I won! Art is a bang!" A stream of lightning blew through a wing of the bird, and shot straight through Deidara, who collapsed into a lump of clay.

'Genjutsu?' Sai thought in amazement, 'He cast it over the both of us, and Deidara saw straight through it!'

The real Deidara dropped from the bottom of the clay bird with a victorious roar, "Prepare to eat C4!" He launched himself at Sasuke who had flown towards them in his Cursed Seal form, and slopped the liquid clay onto Sasuke directly.

Sasuke's eyes widened in surprise, "Shit!" The clay transformed into a normal sized Deidara this time, and the original landed stably on the top of a tree. He looked on at Sasuke who struggled to break the C4 off of him. Sai's eagle rushed swiftly towards the struggling Uchiha, only for him to be stopped in his tracks by a flurry of clay pigeons that had flocked around him.

Sai diverted away from Sasuke and the explosive birds, 'Maybe I can lose then in time to stop the C4 from initiating…' he hoped internally. He felt some of the birds detonate around him, occasionally burning him or breaking his skin. Blood trickled from a large cut on his face, as he continued to try to avoid the flock. He swooped upwards, and looped around the birds carefully, setting some off due to his close proximity and barely managed to avoid his ink eagle from blowing up.

Clay snakes wound themselves around Sasuke's arms and kept him held as close to the C4 as possible, 'It looks like I'll have to test out this theory…' he thought desperately, and he activated as much lightning chakra as he could around his body, "Chidori Nagashi (One Thousand Birds Current)!" The lightning sparked from his skin, and jumped down his nerves. It coiled around the snakes, which dissolved uselessly, and jumped into the slowly inflating form of the C4 Deidara. The ballooned explosive dissolved into slop once again, and it slid straight off of Sasuke who flapped his wings breathlessly. The Cursed Seal mode faded from around him, and Sasuke's wings shrunk and disappeared from his body, only for him to fall perilously to the floor below-

"It seems like you're more able than I would've given you credit for," Sai admitted. Sasuke had landed on the ink eagle with a 'thump', and now the overcrowded bird was slowly gliding towards the safety of the earth. "But Naruto would've defeated Deidara by now." Sasuke glowered at him.

The bird landed messily, and seemed to have drained Sai half of his reserves. Sasuke stumbled to his feet, and looked up only to have Deidara glaring at them only metres away. "How did you see through my art?"

Sasuke breathed heavily, "I saw that you were using Doton typed hand seals whenever you started to use your explosive techniques. Doton is weak to Raiton."

"How long have you known to do that?" Deidara interrogated, his eyes wide and maniacal.

"I didn't," Sasuke admitted, his breath back to normal. "I tested it on a whim. I would have likely died either way."

Sai stood to the side patiently, and he observed the exchange with interest. He reached slowly for a sealed scroll that he kept at his side…

Sasuke unsheathed his sword from its hilt, "Now tell me: Where is Itachi?" He lifted it, and pointed it threateningly at Deidara.

Deidara did not answer. He brought his hands together in an improvised hand seal, and an earthen dragon burst from the earth. It leapt from the ground and headed straight towards Sasuke-

"Choju Giga (Super Beasts Imitation Picture)!" Sai said quickly and he unravelled the scroll, unveiling a pack of inked lions which disabled the dragon in moments. The lions aggressively ripped the clay dragon to shreds, and like the remains of the C4, they slopped to the floor as a useless mess.

Sasuke decided that the threat was over, and he let his Sharingan fade. "I'll say it again… where is Itachi?"

Deidara ignored the question again, and with a wince he pulled the tattered remains of his shirt away to reveal a strange marking on his chest. With one hand he balled together the last of his clay, and with the other (which Sai noticed had a mouth on it) he pulled at the strange mark on his chest. The teeth on his hand pulled at the mark, and steadily ripped it off- it appeared to be a threadlike substance.

The thread pinged through each knotted point, and Deidara's chest burst open to reveal another mouth. A huge one, which decorated the centre of his chest like something from a creepy horror film. Deidara fed the clay to the mouth, which chewed on it greedily, and he locked his eyes on Sai and Sasuke. Cracks started to appear from around his body, and Sai felt sick- it was disintegrating like he had thought Sasuke had earlier.

"I'm going to blow myself up!" Deidara declared happily, madness in his eyes. "This is my ultimate art… and you won't get away from it by copying me again, brat."

Sai frowned. 'It will take too long to create a mode of transport. I don't have enough time to run away by foot… What can I do?'

Deidara cackled giddily, and he watched his own skin flake away into nothingness, "Death will make me a piece of art! An unbelievable explosion, which will form irreparable damage to the Earth itself!" Sasuke closed his eyes in what looked like resignation.

"Hah!" Deidara laughed with happiness, "Your eyes finally changed! My art will cause damage up to ten kilometres from here, so maybe a couple of your little friends will die with it… think on that before you die."

The cracks in Deidara's skin morphed into veins of liquid clay dynamite, "You should be very fright-"

The C4 stopped.

"What the hell is going on?" He howled, "What is wrong with my art?"

Sai and Sasuke shared a look of curiosity, each one considering the other curiously. "Was that you?" Sasuke asked him. Sai shook his head confusedly. And then Sai finally noticed the bugs crawling up and down Deidara's body.

"I'm sorry I'm late," apologised a familiar face. "I was exploring my options when I realised what he was planning."

"Thank you, Shibi," Sai replied gratefully. Sai turned to Sasuke, "I suppose you're familiar with Shibi Aburame here?" Sasuke scowled, and looked away.

Shibi Aburame glanced at Sasuke for a moment, and snorted derisively, "Charming."