Disclaimer: It is in the first ten chapters. Look there.

Note to readers: I'm sad to say this story has come to an end - but, when I get to it, another will be made to continue where this left off. Hopefully. I'm afraid that this is a sad chapter. For all those who have stuck by me for this - Thank You. For all those who have read this to the end - Thank you. For those who have done both the above and reviewed - I LOVE YOU!

And, yes, Riko is kick-ass.

Rating: T

Valley of Ashes


Sasori's arm stays around her waist, even as he whips his puppets out when his ex-partner attacks them. Anya's eyes widen, confusion boiling within her as the blond sends small clay things at them with alarming accuracy. But she knows Sasori is strong, far stronger than this Deidara can even begin to comprehend. Sasori no longer is the Sasori he once knew – he is her companion, her friend, one of her many guardians, and, perhaps, a potential first lover.

When one of Sasori's attacks hits Deidara full force, she sees the surprise flash in his eyes. Step by step, they press back. Yet Anya can feel the shift in the battle – Misa can only fit the masked man for so long. Riko, despite his powerful, isn't wearing down the swearing man. And Gaara, he and the stitched man can only fight for so long.

Then it dawns on her – they're loosing.

And Mallik-sama, he's depending on her. She has to find Naruto-san and protect him from these men so the demon inside of him can be reunited with his father. Whatever happens now, she knows this is the turning point to something greater. She can feel it within herself, even as Sasori struggles to keep them safe from his ex-partner's relentless attacks. He can't even begin to describe his frustration.

Why is he blaming him for his new partner? He should know by now that Pein is the one who makes the final decisions. Even as he bounds far above him, pushing off one of his puppets to put some distance between them, his irritation builds. As long as Deidara throws himself into his attacks, as long as he continues to bombard him with explosives, he knows the young woman in his arms will be in danger. Yet he cannot properly fight back with her in his grasp.

So how can he solve this problem?

Anya wordlessly answers his question. She suddenly drops from his arms, plummeting towards the ground with alarming speed. Her name is torn from his lips, watching someone he has come to care so much for head towards the ground. Chakra starts to unfold around her, the air hissing as it increases. It pools on the ground below her, catching her and blasting her forward.

With a determined cry, she slams down upon the one attacking her childhood friend. Sasori must focus on his own battle – but she can help Misa. She intends to. She places herself to Misa's right, turning to face the masked ninja as he slowly pulls himself off the ground. Dusting himself off, he says nothing.

From the corner of her eye, she sees Gaara and Kakuzu fighting. She turns back to the ninja advancing towards them. A tremor crawls up her spine, her skin rippling with unease as she senses something…dark…coming from him. Something powerful, a power suppressed and hidden as he makes himself appear weaker than he is.

"Misa-chan, watch yourself with this one." The meaning behind her words is clear to her guardian who nods as she unsheathes another weapon she has hidden on her person.

Slowly, carefully, she steps to the side. She can sense that this man is keeping his attention focused on both of them. She knows that something is about to happen. Something bad, something she cannot even guess. Her skin crawls, but she shakes her head – forcing those ill thoughts from her mind as she stares down the mask coming closer to them.

"Tobi doesn't want to fight girls, but Tobi is a good boy," the man states in a high, chipper voice as he pulls out a few kunai. Paper bombs wrap around the end, her eyes narrow.

Anya lashes out before Misa can comment. She doesn't even give Tobi a chance to throw his weapons as she slams into him. Yet her arm goes through his chest, his own moving to wrap around her middle with startling pressure. Pressed flushed against his chest, she can feel his body solidify around her arm. It takes only a moment before she realizes that her arm didn't pass through him.

It takes only a few seconds for that sinister chakra to slam upon them. Her head snaps back, her eyes barely seeing the blurring shape of Riko as Hidan shoots past them. With his arm still holding her prisoner, Tobi bounds off to the side. Hidan, panting and bloodied, crouches on his knees with one hand clamped over his throat. Blood gushes through his fingers, but he grins as he bites out, "I suggest you run for your fucking life, shit-face."

Tobi lets out a girly scream as Riko lunges for them, jumping out of the way in record time. Anya holds back a cry as he bounds up into the air, dodging each jab by a hair's breath.

Suddenly she's spinning through the air, Tobi shooting the other direction. She hits the ground hard, her eyes blurring with tears from the unexpected pain. She can see Riko coming at Tobi from different directions, blurring to quickly for human eyes to see.

But her attention turns elsewhere.

To Misa who fights Hidan.

Misa who is bleeding.

A surge of sickness slams into her, her eyes widening as Hidan licks the blood off his blade. Misa looks disgusted, but Anya can feel the horror curling in her gut. Her blood runs cold as Hidan's body turns black, her limbs numb as Misa screams as he impales his leg with his own blade – and how the blood runs down Misa's injured limb as well.

"No," picking herself off the ground, tears blur her sight as Misa's agonized pierces the air.

"Misa-chan!" pushing forward, eyes mirroring the ghastly image taking place before her, she watches as Hidan servers the skin of his own throat with a madman's laugh.

And how Misa hits the ground a second later, her eyes glazing over within seconds.

The scream that breaks past her lips drowns all other noises in the area, a bestial roar accompanied by the vast power flooding her system. She makes contact with Hidan, her eyes burning a bright, vivid red as she plows into him head-first.

Her body whips around, her calf catching him by the face hard. His head snaps to the side, his body flipping from the force behind her hit. Her sorrow fuels each hit, her anger the fire burning in her blood, and her rage her body's main function. A hunger wells up within her, her throat parched as she bears down on her friend's murderer.

Fire erupts out of her, burning the grass like its nothing more than dry brush to be consumed. The air fills with flacks of gray, the valley they battle in catching alight as her body stings with pain. She can feel her shirt ripping, the edges frying as black energy whirls around them.

Her mind taken over by bloodlust – a thirst that explodes to life the moment she bites down into his skin. Blood hits her tongue, bitter and tangy. Blackness consumes her.

Sasori, on the other hand, is backing up Gaara as Tobi, and Deidara, retreat. Kakuzu has his own back tendrils curling around his partner, pulling him away from the creature that has appeared before them all.

Anya, He can feel her sorrow. It echoes in him, the brutal injustice Misa was forced into by Hidan. She didn't deserve such an end. Not in such a manner.

Yet he helps pull Gaara to his feet, Riko landing next to them as the black-haired girl doubles over sobbing. The Akatsuki are gone, fleeing from the energy burning through the valley. As they approach, he can see Misa's prone figure in Anya's arms. He can see her shaking, crying helplessly for the woman that was like a mother to her.

Dropping to his knees, Sasori wraps his arms around her. Gaara crouches next to her, folding Misa's hands over her chest. Riko looks towards the sky, his face – what was once a skull – is now a burning mass of silver-blue light.

And all around them is the scare of their first loss.

A valley of ashes.