Chapter 34 - Picking Up the Trail: Crisis in Suna!

VERY IMPORTANT A/N (Please Read)!: For those of you who don't know already this I have another ongoing story that I word on, "The Maelstrom and Deathberry" (Please check it out if you haven't already) which I'm going to divide into two parts, "The 1st Act" & "The 2nd Act", with the "The 2nd Act" to be written as a 2nd Fanfic. Because I'm hoping to start "The 2nd Act" at around the time of the two-year anniversary I plan to finish "The 1st Act" as soon as I can. As such I'm going to temporarily change my update schedule for my stories.

EDIT:

Until I have posted the "Prologue" and 1st chapter of "The 2nd Act" I will be working only on the "Maelstrom" chapters so "Kitsune" will be put on hold until that point. This is only temporary, however, so please bear with me and have a little patience; once I've begun "The 2nd Act" of "Maelstrom" I will be returning to the normal update rotation for new chapters, which means new "Kitsune" chapters will appear after that point.

Thank you for your time and patience... and now enjoy chapter 34 of "Kitsune"! :D

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Disclaimer: Still applies

[Inside Naruto's Special Garganta]

Current Time...

Naruto and his teammates, with Temari, were currently running (or flying in Fū's case) along the pathway he made to traverse the black void that was the inside of Naruto's Garganta variant; they had been running along the pathway for almost two hours and were due to reach the exit at any moment, much to the relief of a couple of the members of the group.

As the four Konoha-nins and one Suna-nin ran through the blackness of the Garganta, Sasuke briefly looked over the edge of the pathway... only to see that the black void just continued on endlessly.

"So, Naruto... is the black abyss right below normal?" Sasuke asked curiously the young Uzumaki who was now currently at the head of the group. Said Uzumaki, without stopping, nodded in response to Sasuke's question.

"Yep... and if you fall you be stuck falling in that void for all eternity. So mind your step, Sasuke," Naruto warned to which the Uchiha sighed.

"I figured as much. I had a feeling that there would be a catch."

"Well I couldn't make it too easy for us, now could I?"

Naruto's little joke obviously made Sasuke and Sakura a little uneasy (Fū didn't really mind, seeing as the abyss wasn't an issue for her since she could fly), though the young Uchiha didn't show it as clearly as his pink-haired teammate, so Naruto decided to at least ease their troubles.

"Don't worry about it; I made sure that the pathway is solid enough to withstand a punch from Tsunade-san when she's pissed off soon so, as long as you don't do anything stupid, you'll be fine," Naruto said before he cocked to Temari who had been strangely quiet the entire time; having a pretty good idea of what was on Temari's mind, Naruto looked at her with a stern but reassuring look in his eyes.

"Don't worry, Temari-san; we'll save Gaara. I promise you that we won't let anything happen to him," Naruto said determinedly.

Temari's eyes widened slightly when Naruto addressed her but quickly got over it.

"Naruto... I... thank you," the Suna kunoichi said to which Naruto responding by waving it off as if to say 'it's no trouble at all' or something of a similar meaning.

Before the young Uzumaki clansman could say anything else an opening appeared 50 yards ahead of the group.

"It looks like we're finally here-Time to see how bad the situation really is," Naruto said before he and the other ninja passed through the exit.


[A Few Miles Outside of Sunagakure]

Moments Later...

Naruto and co. emerged from the special Garganta and found themselves in the middle of a large desert, with Suna a short distance ahead, much to the surprise of Temari and Naruto's teammates.

"Ummm... we're not exactly in the village, Naruto-kun," Fū said, as she was a bit confused (as were Temari and Naruto's other teammates) as to why Naruto didn't just have them appear in the center of the village.

"I know that, Fū-chan; I did that on purpose," Naruto pointed out.

This only confused the other ninja even further.

"And why did you do that?" Sasuke asked.

Naruto merely shook his head at this before he answered.

"Because the shinobi of Suna will probably be in a state of emergency and a few people teleporting into the center of town from out of nowhere would probably cause a very bad misunderstanding, wouldn't it? Besides we shouldn't take more than a minute or two to reach the gate, anyways," Naruto said before he motioned for his group to follow him towards Suna.

[Suna Hospital]

A Few Hours Later...

Sasuke and Fū were currently sitting on a bench located in a hallway outside of the main emergency room of the Suna Hospital, with Sasuke propping his current weapon (the gunbai fan) on the spot on the bench next to him. As the two members of Team Naruto waited in the hallway they were both startled by a male screaming from behind the closed doors of the ER room in front of them. Fū let out a low whistle at this.

"Man... the Akatsuki did a number on him. I feel pretty bad for Kankuro-san," the Nanabi Jinchuriki said to which Sasuke sighed.

"Yeah... though he's also lucky. If we didn't arrive when we did he would've ended up as another statistic. Such as it is Sakura and Naruto should be able to heal him," Sasuke pointed out as he rested his back in the stone wall behind him as he collected his thoughts on what had happened since he and his teammates arrived in Suna itself.

Naruto and his teammates, with Temari in tow, arrived in the village, much to everyone's surprise as they had obviously arrived days ahead of schedule. After meeting with Baki, the Suna jonin who was Gaara's former squad leader who had essentially taken charge in light of Gaara's absence, and discussed what had happened. Basically the Akatsuki, specifically confirmed members Deidara and Itachi, managed to double team the Kazekage and capture him (though not before Gaara ripped off Deidara's arm and nearly killed him several times) with Itachi only getting involved when Deidara nearly got killed for the fifth time. After Deidara and Itachi manage to give the Suna-nins the slip, their "prize" in tow, Kankuro eventually ran after them, determined to save his little brother.

As Naruto and Baki discussed their next move the conversation between the two jonin was interrupted by a Suna-nin who barged into the room to report that Kankuro had been brought back after having pursued the Akatsuki... and getting his ass handed to him by Sasori, who was also among the Akatsuki members who was part of the assault.

As a result of that lopsided battle Kankuro was badly injured but not critically injured. The real problem, however, was that Sasori had left an eventually lethal amount his trademark poison in the young Suna jonin, forcing Sakura and Naruto, both of whom were skilled medics, to help treat the puppet-nin, which is what they were doing right now.

After another fifteen minutes of waiting, and flinching whenever the Suna-jonin screamed in pain and agony, Sasuke and Fū noticed that the small commotion inside the ER room had subsided. A couple of minutes after that the doors to the room opened, with one Naruto walking out of the room. Neither Sasuke or Fū asked whether Kankuro was alright, seeing as how they could seeing the Suna-nin sleeping peacefully in one of the cots.

"Man, that was rough... I thought we would never finish. (he turns to face Sasuke and Fū) So how are you guys holding up?" Naruto asked.

"I'm fine for now," Sasuke responded.

"I'm bored out of my mind; how much longer until we go already?" was Fū's response, to which Naruto sighed before he gave his explanation.

"Well... Kankuro isn't in danger of dying anytime soon but there's still a bit of Sasori's poison left in his system so Sakura-chan's going to have to create an antidote seeing as there is none for this particular poison. Thankfully I recorded all the details regarding Sasori's poison and had that information on hand for her to use. It shouldn't take more than a couple more hours," Naruto explained... to which Fū reacted by sighing in exasperation.

"You're joking?" Fū asked in disbelief.

Naruto merely shook his head before Fū groaned again, the mint-haired Leaf kunoichi having realized that they would be waiting for Sakura for a while.

Four Hours Later...

"Wake up, Fū-chan," Naruto said as he nudged the Nanabi jinchuriki who had fallen asleep shortly after Naruto had exited the ER room.

Fū slowly sat up, the wielder of Chōmei having a groggy expression on her face, as she stretched out her arms and yawned.

"Huh...? What's wrong? Are you and Sakura done yet?" she said groggily.

"We've been done for almost three hours, Fū-chan. Now come on, we've managed to find out where the Akatsuki is taking Gaara," Naruto said.

Fū got up and, after grabbing that mysterious wrapped up object and slinging over its usual position on her back, followed Naruto. The two jinchuriki left the hospital and walked to Suna's gate as the sun began to set. As the two ninja walked down main street of Suna to reach the gate Fū decided to ask Naruto a couple of questions.

"So... where's Sakura and Sasuke?" she asked her fellow jonin and jinchuriki.

"They should already be at the gate waiting for us. Temari is going to join us again and should also be there as well," Naruto replied.

Fū's eyes widened slightly slightly at hearing that Temari was joining them... though not for the reason you might expect.

"So Temari-san is the only one from this village that's going to help out?" Fū asked, taken aback by the fact that only one ninja in Suna was going to gwith them to save their Kazekage.

"Suna is a pretty vulnerable situation; they've spread forces even more than Tsunade did when the Akatsuki came out of hiding the first time three years back so they can't spare anymore shinobi. At least Baki-san was willing to let Temari come along; seeing that she's Gaara's sister she has every reason to want to save him. If Kankuro wasn't recovering in the hospital I would've had him come along as well, but five ninja in total is still enough to pull this rescue off... and besides..." Naruto began.

As the two Jincuriki approached the gate Naruto turned and looked at Fū with a fire in his eyes that the jinchuriki of Chōmei, like anyone else who knew Naruto, recognized all too well.

"... I want to save Gaara just as much as the people of Suna and I know you feel the same way, right?" Naruto asked Fū who nodded in the affirmative woth a great deal of her own determination just before they arrived at Suna's main gate.

Just as Naruto had told Fū their teammates, as well as one war fan-toting kunoichi, were already waiting at said gate.

"Sorry we're late; anyways, are you guys ready to head out?" Naruto asked.

Sakura, Sasuke, and Temari all nodded in response.

"Alright, then; let's move out!" Naruto said.

The young Uzumaki's words had barely left his lips before he ran off into the desert; his teammates and Temari were right behind the Leaf jonin as the group want southward.

[10 Miles North of the Southern Border of The Land of Wind]

Half A Day later...

The sun was just beginning to rise on the horizon as our heroes approached the southern border of the Land of Wind. They had ran almost nonstop ever since they had begun their pursuit of the Akatsuki members who had captured Gaara (with a 30-minute break six hours into the chase being their only respite) and were now approaching the Land of Rivers where an Akatsuki hideout was located. Unbeknownst to the Akatsuki this hideout, which was the closest one to Suna, Jango had stumbled upon this hideout while on an unrelated mission. After Jango informed Naruto of the discovery the Uzumaki decided to keep it a secret, in case the unthinkable should occur and Gaara was captured since Naruto knew that this was the place the Akatsuki would most likely take the Ichibi Jinchuriki. Now, with Naruto using his enhanced Pesquisa to track the Akatsuki members down, the group was approaching the border of the Land of Rivers, which all but confirmed Naruto's suspicions.

As the group continued pursuing their quarry Naruto was slightly surprised when he sensed something up ahead with his Pesquisa, even if it didn't show on his face.

"I see... so that's how they plan to stall us; it won't be enough seeing as how I can take them on myself and that the ones with Gaara are almost close enough for Me, Kurama, Fū, and Chōmei to contact Shukaku so Fū and the others can track them that way. Though at least this mean I can finally speak with HIM face-to-face," Naruto thought to himself before he cocked his head back to face Sasuke, who had a slightly uneasy expression on his.

"Do you sense that, Sasuke?" Naruto asked the Uchiha.

"Yeah... he's definitely up ahead," Sasuke replied.

Before the other members of the group could respond to this everyone's senses suddenly went haywire and, acting fast, the group quickly scattered as a large fireball came hurtling towards them head on, minus Naruto who grips the handle of his blade. In one swift and fluid motion Naruto unsheathed his zanpakuto, effortlessly cut the fireball in half which caused the flames to dissipate, and returned the blade back to its sheath.

"Dear, Dear, it looks like Naruto-san is as strong as ever," a voice said before two figures appeared before Naruto and the other ninja. They was none other than Itachi and Tobi (who was that one that just spoke), the duo having been ordered to stay behind to try and stall our heroes and buy some time for Deidara and Sasori to reach the hideout.

Sasuke, despite having already been informed that Itachi was among Gaara's kidnappers, was still somewhat taken aback by this sudden reunion.

"Itachi..." Sasuke breathed out; despite his slight surprise at this sudden reunion he made sure not to addressed his brother in a manner that sounded too familiar, hence why he didn't use an honorific this time around.

After Itachi briefly eyed Sasuke, and noted how much his younger had grown since their last encounter three years ago, before he finally turned his attention to the one person he had been eager to meet for quite a while.

"So I finally get to meet you... Naruto Uzumaki."

Next Time - Guardians of the Leaf: Naruto & Itachi