Rippling Future @airheaded_dude
The First Encounter

Chapter Thirty Six: The First Encounter


Hatake Kakashi had been quietly thinking to himself as he and Sasuke made their way back to Kawa no Kuni with Pakkun leading the way.

It had been three years since his fight against Itachi and he remembered how outclassed he was in fighting against the killer of the Uchiha Clan. For the longest time since Itachi's appearance, Itachi did not just made milestones, he had taken a huge leap forward. Being the former commander of the ANBU unit, Kakashi watched as Itachi grew, that unmistakable demeanor of the boy who had entered the most rigorous branch of the shinobi arts in Konoha was familiar to him. Cold, analytical eyes, Itachi looked on during brief missions as if he saw even farther than most of his peers. The older ones regarded Itachi as a boy whose limits have yet to be seen. The look that Itachi gave them, it was as if he was seeing past them and onto a horizon that many did not know.

Kakashi could tell, this kind of mindset was familiar to him. So familiar that he could not help but be beside himself as he saw Itachi's unbelievable progress.

And just as Itachi's light had shined brightly above, just as he neared Kakashi's summit, the elder of the clan head's sons suddenly faded and something of a proverbial twig snapped within.

Kakashi could not believe the rumors at first. Itachi slaughtering his clan was a surprise that he did not expect. In one night, the Uchiha clan went extinct. No one was there that could have stopped him.

Kakashi looks at Sasuke, the ominous shadow of Itachi still loomed behind his student. The man who committed genocide against the Uchiha, his cloud remained still with Sasuke, even after all these years. And Kakashi could not help but understand the rage within Sasuke. To have been left alone, to see the life of your parents violently snuffed out in front of you, and to be utterly betrayed by someone you trusted wholeheartedly, Kakashi lamented Sasuke's life. Sasuke truly still lived with the past haunting him.

And when they saw Itachi, it was like a dam had burst. Sasuke spilled so much killing intent that it came off in waves as he saw Itachi. And the man was just standing there, as if he was taunting Sasuke, with that cold and emotionless demeanor, Kakashi could still see Itachi's gaze, he could still see how far he was staring off into nothing, as if in his bouts of madness, that faraway look still maintained with him.

"Still looking past me, you unforgivable cur!" Sasuke shouted and it was then than Itachi turned to Sasuke, his eyes remain neutral and Itachi looked like he could not be bothered with his little brother.

"Foolish little brother, I can tell just from the way your chakra is running, you have gained access to the Mangekyou. I congratulate you for having reached that same level as me when I was a child."

To this Sasuke growled, "The Mangekyou sharingan… This state is nothing but a cursed power, but if it means biting down at this curse to kill you, I have no qualms in doing it!"

Kakashi placed a hand before Sasuke, gesturing him to stop as the silver haired jounin asked the man before them. Knowing that he also contained a Mangekyou Sharingan, Kakashi had delved into its secrets and from what he could gather within Konoha's library.

"Tell me, Itachi, how bad has eyesight gotten?"

To this Itachi's face turned into a scowl. He supposed that Kakashi would know the backlash of using the Mangekyou Sharingan, Kakashi is a genius still that rivalled his own analytic abilities after all.

"Ho? You seem to know a lot about the Mangekyou, Kakashi-san. The secrets of the Uchiha clan was laid before you by my foolish brother?"

Sasuke looked at Kakashi with surprise as his sensei shook his head. Above all else, Konoha keeps archives of the Mangekyou Sharingan tracing back to the Nidaime Hokage's rule. Many of which were compiled after the Nidaime had them recorded as personal and secret files that ANBU and the Hokage had access to.

"Konoha has information about the Mangekyou Sharingan since the time of Nidaime-sama, you should know this, Itachi. Or has the blurring of vision ruined your sight so much that you failed to even find them?"

Itachi showed no response. Instead, he merely opened his cloak at the top and hanged his hand from the gap between the cloak.

"Not surprising, since the Nidaime was wary of the Uchiha and any of the Uchiha that died who had the mangekyou during his rule were most likely autopsied by him to learn of the Mangekyou Sharingan's powers."

"The time for talk is over! Itachi!" Sasuke charged, sharingan flaring and the three tomoe spinning per iris in his crimson orbs began to spin madly.

With sword in hand, Sasuke zigzagged his way and performed the Waki no kamae as he ran hiding his blade from Itachi's sight.

'That's right, show me, Sasuke…' Itachi silently watched as Sasuke with his eyes tracking Sasuke, never once nearing his sight. But as he got closer though, Itachi could tell something was wrong, as if there was a sudden phase of deceleration that he could see with Sasuke before the image in front of him blurred.

'An after image? Don't tell me…' Itachi quickly turned around as Sasuke appeared behind him, sword drawn, with lightning crackling around his blade.

'That's Shisui's move!' Itachi took a step back, avoiding Sasuke's swing upwards and quickly turned around to see Sasuke attacking with a downward sword strike. Itachi, knowing how Shisui's technique worked, decided to jump away at the last second as the attack missed Itachi by a wide margin.

'Shisui's attack was always several layers of feints in exploiting openings. The mirages he conjured made it difficult for his target to fully adjust to where he is striking.' Itachi thought as Sasuke went after him again, vanishing from his sight again only to reappear to his left, which Itachi had blocked with his knife and a copied Sasuke's lightning-based technique to neutralize the raiton effect of Sasuke's blade.

"Shisui's technique is quite the skill to have, my foolish little brother. But compared to his jutsu, yours is still a fledgling, you are made predictable by the fact that you strike at me where I know I am being blindsided. Shisui did not strike with an opportunity, he created them."

With that, Itachi effortlessly twists his kunai and parries Sasuke's sword, surprising Sasuke as Itachi raised his left leg.

And proceeded to kick Sasuke directly at his sternum.

Sasuke was immediately sent flying as he was sent careening back towards the forest as he then began to perform a rapid pace of handseals ending with the tiger seal.

"Katon: Housenka Tsumabeni (Fire Release: Phoenix Flower Sage Crimson Nail)"

A flurry of shuriken charged with flame chakra escaped as they made their way towards Sasuke. It was here that Kakashi had intercepted the path between Itachi and Sasuke.

With enough hand seal speed that could match Itachi, Kakashi finished his sequence and slammed his hands on the ground.

"Doton: Doryuheki (Earth release: Mud flowing wall)"

A slab of earth with four dog heads rose from the ground, the path of the shuriken stopped as it crashed into the earth wall. Kakashi was about to turn around and sure enough, two clones of Itachi had appeared beside his barrier with one of them speaking, "An astute observation, Kakashi-san, you had forgone the use of the more obvious choice of using the Suijinheki when you noticed the shuriken. However…"

Kakashi was suddenly pressed against the wall he made when one of the clones pushed forward with Kunai in hand as Kakashi blocked with his own kunai, the blade pressing dangerously close to his neck.

"Akatsuki has not sat idle when you and your peers grew. It is not just you who has gained sufficient strength."

The other Itachi then made a swift dash towards Sasuke as the younger of the two brothers recovered and deflected a kunai strike from Itachi, which came uneasily close to Sasuke's eyes.

"If you think this is the extent of what I…"

"You've already fallen for my trap." Itachi had cut Sasuke of as two fingers pointed to the youngest Uchiha.

The sound of crows cawing and the flutter of wings escapes Sasuke's hearing and his world turned into an interesting shade of red.


Team Gai versus Kisame:

Gai sprang up and down and began poking the water with the tip of his left foot. Feeling a good ease for his footwork, Gai did not even go into his stance and in a blink of an eye, crossed the distance between him and Kisame.

"I've taken point." Gai said as he stomped his foot forward, gathering enough force that the water beneath his right foot went downwards and five spouts of water erupted behind him as he swung one of his nunchakus forward towards the monster of kirigakure.

The force of the attack was so strong that even though Kisame had managed to block the attack mitigating any form of damage, Kisame was slightly pushed back.

"PUSH HIM OUT OF HIS ELEMENT!"

Gai heard Naruto shout and he grinned, it seemed Naruto had an idea about what he planned to do.

Suiton users were very dangerous in their element, akin to how Gaara would nearly be unbeatable in the desert, a water user would be near invincible on a field he had advantage of. While it is true that a sufficient user you did not need a body of water to perform suiton jutsu, the potency of a suiton user increased once they are near bodies of water due to less time conjuring the necessary element and more time focus was spent on controlling said element.

The exceptions of this rule did not only have a good ability to conjure up water from an otherwise clear battlefield, it was also to be as effective as those that were beside bodies of water themselves. Hence why the Nidaime Hokage was such a powerful suiton user.

Gai watched as Kisame started to get back up, Gai was about to go continue his assault but stopped when he heard something behind him.

It was here that a streak of lightning went past Gai as another had dashed forward leaving Gai behind as Lee and Neji appeared beside Kisame, boxing him in.

Neji was quick to react, once Gai had attacked, he was already working as fast as he could, he had charged his legs little by little with his lightning chakra and observed that Lee had taken off his weights. Gai had performed his part and the two immediately sprang into action.

Kisame was now surrounded to his front and his sides, with Neji about to close one of Kisame's Tenketsu points while Lee was about to strike him with his Tonfa straight to his left flank.

Kisame did not even flinch.

With a mighty roar and reflexes that surprised both Neji and Lee, Kisame spun around and swung Samehada sideways, effectively halting their attacks at him as Neji managed to dodge in time while Lee blocked the giant blade and sending him across the water field. It was here that Tenten made her presence felt.

"Kokuzo Bosatsu: Juu Tetsu Dan (Boundless Space Treasury: Ten Iron Bullets)!"

Several ripples from Tenten's left hand suddenly appeared sending ten spears flying at Kisame. The monster of Kirigakure merely grinned and swung his Samehada forward, deflecting them all with a show of force.

Kisame then stomped his left foot on to the water and twenty shark constructs escaped from his person as they all headed towards the five-man team to take them down.

"Suiton: Nijuushokuzame (Water Release: Twenty Shark feeding frenzy)!"

The shark constructs all went for their targets in groups of four.

Neji countered and slapped his lightning infused hand into the water with his palm open, the water around him burst into tiny bubbles and causing the water to crater several feet before being filled again. before forming back up, the shark constructs beneath him dissolved instantaneously.

Lee, with his feet, ducked weaved around the sharks, he then sees them now at a range where he can take them out in one fell swoop, Lee jumped into the air and the sharks followed, Lee activated his Kongosho (Diamond Way) and began breathing deeply.

"Senju Kanon (Thousand handed Guanyin Boddhisatva)!"

The sharks were immediately peppered by Rock Lee's fists, hitting them all at once multiple time and unable to contain their forms, the water constructs were easily destroyed.

Tenten had forgone with dealing with them enough as she tapped one of the ten seals in her knuckles with the kanji of water and out came in her hands in a cloud of smoke Suigintou (Mercurial Blade). Pulling out the Nodachi out of its Scabbard, Tenten raises her sword upwards and the water around her began to surge upwards at the tip, the four sharks that went for her did not stand a chance as the water obeyed the second jutsu that Tenten had placed in her sword.

'Seikaiken (Command of the Seas)' Tenten thought.

The Jutsu that commands control of water to a large area around her, the core base of the Jutsu that Suigintou had been given. The ability to bend the water to the will of the holder of Suigintou. It was a jutsu that she had discussed with Ryuugamine after finding out that the second jutsu could send highly pressurized water to the enemy, it seemed like a waste to not just let the user manipulate water to what she wanted. She wondered just how specific many of the jutsu she had with her weapons, and most of them merely did one specific thing for each.

With her arsenal, she has covered pretty much the five elements at her disposal and several trick weapons that she would rather not use so blatantly against her enemies. She knew she had surpassed herself many, many times over since her days as a genin.

But for her to reach her goals, it still would not be enough.

Her goal was to surpass Tsunade.

And she will do it her own way.

"Here, I'm giving this back to you!" Tenten shouted and brought the sword down and the water around her bended to her will as highly pressurized water made a giant wave towards Kisame at high speed.

The surge of water was soon followed up with Naruto running just behind the giant slicing wave of water. Kisame made a vicious grin, shoving Samehada forward and going into a thrusting stance, Kisame surged the blade forward the high-pressured liquid made its mark as the cloth of Samehada were torn to shreds revealing the multiple layers of serrated blades beneath, the surging water was soon calmed down as the water splashed back on the ground unceremoniously, the chakra used absorbed by Samehada and the shark constructs disrupted and vanishing from the scale of Tenten's technique.

Naruto made good use of his Kuukanzangeki (Space Cutting Strike) and bisected the four sharks before they could even touch him. It was here that Naruto ran towards Kisame, his eyes now changing in color.

Through the walls of water, Naruto had sprung through, throwing two kunai on Kisame and the Blue swordsman dodged, letting the blades sail past him and grinned. Out of all the people in this current team, only two of them did not hold weapons to level the playing field against him. One of these, is a Hyuuga with extreme speed and reflexes that made him suitable enough to bypass Kisame's large range in mid and close-range combat. But the blonde did not have a weapon with him that could at least provide protection against Samehada. Naruto appeared from the wall of water, right arm cocked back and aiming for a punch on his face and Kisame was there readily knowing that the blonde was aiming for a punch.

Kisame would nail him first!

Kisame chuckled as he swung Samehada towards Naruto. At the range that the blonde was in, Kisame knew for a fact that he was going to connect first!

CLANG!

Kisame stopped his train of thought when he heard that. With his mighty strength, the water reacted, and a huge spout of water escaped behind the blonde as it rose to twenty meters high. But Kisame noted something different, he had noticed that the teeth that Samehada had were not piercing the blonde's flesh, specifically, the left hand.

Even at forty percent, to have resisted him this much was commendable.

Kisame then looked at the blonde, orange pigments colored the eyelids of the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki and when they opened, they revealed yellow irises with bars in place of pupils.

Kisame noted that this Samehada did not seem all too thrilled with absorbing the boy's chakra like it did years before. This change might have something to do with it.

It took Kisame only two seconds to realize this fact, two seconds too late when Naruto had blocked Samehada against the skin of the back of his hand and resisted the monster's immense strength.

"Hey, you're not really here, are you?" Naruto asked him and Kisame smirked.

"Now what would make you say that?"

Naruto did not reply and merely parried the sword away from him as Naruto surged forward Kisame with speeds that could match Gai on a good day.

Kisame was surprised at this as Naruto was already in the motion of punching him across the face.

If Gai had enough force to stomp and let out five waterspouts around him, Naruto had now ten as he stomped his foot forward, gathering the necessary force to increase the strength of this one punch.

Naruto concentrated natural energy around his fist and let loose a quaking punch that could make Tsunade proud.

SMASH!

Kisame was sent hurtling far from his original position, the water beneath him parted ways as the force of the blow sent him flying from the man-made lake and onto the makeshift shores as the ground caved in and entrenched the blue swordsman.

From afar, the view of dust and debris sprouting out in a straight line was seen.

Team Gai had gathered around Naruto, whose orange pigments were already disappearing from his eyes, as he said, "He is not out yet, that guy's way too strong for just one punch to take him out like that. I could feel his resistance still even with a large amount of natural energy I had put in that attack."

"What do you mean that he's not really here, Naruto?" Neji asked and Naruto answered him, "There's a certain stream of chakra that is tethered to him, same as how I'm able to do this mode with one clone supplying me with Natural energy from afar with a remote chakra transfer seal. It is still a work in progress, but I lessened the time needed to enter Sage mode. Anyway, that tethered chakra I told you about has Kisame's chakra and it is entering the system of the guy before us. It's certainly Kisame there, but it feels like he impersonated someone."

"A strange jutsu, for sure. But whatever we are facing, I'm sure we can handle it here if that was Kisame's full strength."

Naruto shook his head, "That's just it, he may have Kisame's looks, mannerisms and jutsu, but it felt like it was only part of Kisame, like it's incomplete or something. I don't understand the specifics here for now, but that guy is not the Kisame we're supposed to know."

It was here that Gai looked quite thoughtful for a second and then asked, "Naruto-kun, you said that something is tethering with that person, yes?"

Naruto nodded and looked over the horizon to his left, he felt the chakra streaming to this man coming in from a certain direction.

"Yeah, and I'm suspecting that is where we'll find Gaara." Naruto nodded at this and pointed to the general direction of where the chakra came from.

Gai gave a nod and turned to his students, "Then that is where we need to go. Neji, Tenten, Lee, I am placing my trust in you as my students to help Naruto-kun in this expedition. I will be staying here and finish this fish man off."

"He's not at full power, Gai-sensei, but that man has managed to withstand most of our blows! Surely you don't intend to face him alone?" Neji asked and Gai gave them a thumbs up.

"A mere copy of a strong man shall never withstand the power of my youth, Neji! You, Tenten and Lee know of what I am capable of!"

To this, Gai smiled at them and this time, power seemed radiate within Gai.

In an instant, Gai had managed to open six of the eight gates within him and noted the overwhelming feeling of the man's chakra.

"Take care, my students, I will be following you shortly."

With that, Gai vanished from their sights as the sound of Gai stomping on the water and dashing to the enemy left multiple waterspouts as high as twenty meters left his wake.

Neji began to walk towards the general direction that Naruto had pointed out, "Let's go, this fight will be finished, anyway, and we are racing against time."

Naruto, Tenten and Lee all nodded as they leapt towards their destination.

They were getting close.


Suna:

Shikamaru had all the files he needed placed on the undisclosed room that they had used earlier. As Shikamaru ran eyes through all the papers that he was reading on, Temari looked at Shikamaru concerned and paranoid at the same time.

"If you're just going to stare, you should just help me sort and read through all of these files, Temari. I understand that you're pretty paranoid about how Akatsuki managed to get through your security. But this is no time to concern yourself on what we're supposed to do but what we can do."

Temari nodded and Shikamaru handed her a file from the desk. It was here that Sakura was entered the room with Baku with Sakura looking quite annoyed.

"Can you believe that old bat? The nerve of her calling Gaara and his siblings as fools while she was the one here who does nothing."

Temari turned to Sakura with a raised eyebrow at her foul mood, "I take it you've met with one of the more peculiar elders in the village?"

Baki nodded, "Not just any of the elders, Temari, it was Chiyo-sama herself."

Temari nodded, "I kind of figured. The old bat is xenophobic and has been criticizing Suna's pivot for better relations outside the village. She should be thankful that the open trade between Konoha and Suna has been helpful in sustaining the village in some capacity."

Coincidentally, Shikamaru was reading Chiyo's file, "A puppeteer taught by the second Kazekage and a medic nin to boot. It says here she's a certain bigshot within the council of Suna. Any motives that can link her to what happened?"

Temari shook her head, "She's certainly a staunch and vocal opposition against Gaara's policies but she's never worded her dislike of the Kazekage himself, she acknowledges Gaara's strength in a way and even mentioned that he was a shinobi of great power. She won't certainly dismiss Gaara so callously to endanger the village itself since she was the one responsible in placing the Ichibi no Tanuki on my brother."

Having a clearer picture formed in his head, Shikamaru made a comment as he turned the paper for another page, "She understands that the village comes first, no matter what her thoughts are on his policies. So, we can rule her out of the list."

"She's certainly loyal to the village, but her displeasure of all the good we've done between our villages despite the setback three years ago seriously pissed me off." Sakura said as she clenched her fists and growled.

Shikamaru then turned back his attention to all the papers stacked at the small desk and began to rearrange them. By the time he was finished, Shikamaru had a taller stack of folders on the right and smaller on the left.

"Files on the right are marked as safe. Some of the council members here are either neutral to Gaara or favor him quite so. The neutral ones are more since this is elder council we are talking about, they know about their rituals for Jinchuuriki and know most of Gaara's deeds even before. They are either cautiously optimistic or outright terrified of what Gaara might do to them. The ones on the left are the much more hostile members or a council member who has a relative that was killed by Gaara one way or another, making them have the perfect motive to do so."

Temari looked over one of the files on the left and flipped a page. Temari was surprised to find even one of the elders she knew was a supporter for Gaara.

But the rest, she had no idea that these people had the most to do with Gaara's supposed fate.

She looked at one of the files, her blood boils in fury. These people were trusted very deeply by the previous Kazekage who did not question him nor his orders.

These were the same people that supported the Kazekage's decision to assassinate Gaara before and they were still doing it, years later.

How did this not get cleared by Baki, Kankurou and more importantly, Gaara?

"Now that we narrowed the search down, should we gather information on how they managed to maintain contact with Akatsuki?" Sakura asked this and looked at Temari, who she knew was the interim Kazekage and then at Baki, the Kazekage's trusted right hand.

"No, there's no further need, get rid of them." Temari answered hastily, her mind finally made up. Baki was surprised at this, Temari was being much more unforgiving than the previous Kazekage combined.

"I realize that this has become a personal matter to you, Temari, but you need to…"

"Calm down?" Temari finished, spite filling her words as she gritted her teeth in anger, "How can I, Baki-sensei? How can I do that when this incident not only abducted and possibly kill my brother while the other one was put in a hospital by a highly dangerous criminal that we should have put down years ago? How can I when I am forced here back against my own will to carry on a torch from my brother as if they are acting that he's dead? Do you want my opinion? My opinion says we need to get rid of Suna's bad elements for good. Sound good to you? Yes? Well, let's get to the killing fields then."

Silence was her answer, all around her, her teacher turned subordinate by her current position and the shinobi from Konoha all looked at her quietly, as if they were thinking of her decision quite thoroughly.

A few more seconds later, Shikamaru craned his neck and nodded, "For once, I think this maybe our only option. Get rid of the bad apples and make sure that nothing like this happens again."

Sakura then came to posit a question, "How do we do that? They may oppose Gaara but they may have a select few under their payroll. They have families as well. Some are as influential as any clan leader back in Konoha. Is wiping out a clan or two an option that we can have?"

Shikamaru looked outside and saw the bustling people around the main government building to where the Kazekage was supposedly working for today, but many people there were laying down offerings and prayers of safety for the leader that risked his life for the safety of the village. Inwardly putting down clans in the name of stability was a drastic measure. But if they can make their families or vassals turn on them, then the damage would not be as significant.

Suddenly, a plan starts formulating in Shikamaru's head.

"I have an idea, but this will cost the village somewhat."

Shikamaru then went for the files of his list of suspects and then held them up.

"They say that a house divided cannot stand, corruption bites deep but it relies that you would not feel pain at first, but a village united for a common cause overcomes whatever adversity it might face."

Shikamaru then looks on to Baki, "Tell me, Baki-san, are your people good enough to dig up information that we most certainly need? Even against three powerful individuals or clans that oppose the current Kazekage's reign?"

Baki nodded, "It is well within my power to do so."

Shikamaru grinned, "Good, I'll need your men going undercover and find any evidence that could help us a great deal. We will use the people's adoration for Gaara against them. But in order to do so, you must be prepared to divulge this information on the masses, that three corrupt councilmen had tried to have Gaara assassinated."

Shikamaru then turned to Temari, "Don't get me wrong, Temari, a military dictatorship we might be, but politics still play a part on this issue, we have to make sure that everyone is with us for this plan to work or it shatters Suna's reputation as an organized and powerful military village."

Shikamaru then gave the files to Temari, "These people are dangerous, in a war, the acme of skill is recognized when we win a battle without having to raise a sword first."

Temari understood what Shikamaru meant.

She was going to use the people of Suna as her weapon.

A grin crosses her face, with a dangerous glint in her eye.


River Country, Kakashi and Sasuke vs Itachi:

The sky had turned red, its shade was as dark as the color of blood. Sasuke's perception changed, as he was now surrounded by hundreds of Itachi's clones with a countless murder of crows perched on branches of a multitude of trees all staring at him with the sharingan.

Sasuke was trapped in a genjutsu and as his eyes started to pick apart the illusion, more and more of Itachi's clones began appearing and all staring at Sasuke with unmoving and unclear intent.

"My foolish little brother…" One clone began as Sasuke turned to the source of the voice before his sharingan instantly dismantled the genjutsu only to be replaced by another one.

"With just the tips of my finger…" One Itachi had dashed to Sasuke with kunai drawn only for it to disappear with Sasuke's sharingan spinning madly.

"I can cast as many genjutsu as I can…"

An Itachi clone had managed to get close to Sasuke kicking him at his back forcing Sasuke to stumble down and go an all fours on the ground.

"And with the power of my Tsukuyomi…"

Sasuke turned around and that Itachi became nothing more than static as Sasuke felt a clone pin him down on the ground.

"That I used on you when I put you in this genjutsu…"

Itachi then proceeded to stab Sasuke on the shoulder, as Sasuke yelped in pain. For Itachi it only took a second, but for Sasuke, it felt like an hour of having a blade slowly jammed to his skin.

"I can essentially alter the perception of time and space on my victim…"

Itachi then proceeded to pull the knife out slowly, causing Sasuke to let out a loud excruciating scream and trembled as his body processed that he was being stabbed everywhere.

Inside his mind, the voice in his head laughed maniacally as he taunted Sasuke, 'Look at you, down on the ground, eating dirt, while your brother completely embraces that power he was given. That power you could have used but refuse to. Now here you are, defeated, unable to escape his illusion unable to fight back, how pitiful.'

This sorry look that the man had as he looked entertained at his pain deeply angered Sasuke. This man dared to look at him with pity despite his amused looking face, grinning at him filled with disrespect and denigration. It seemed more painful than what is Itachi putting him through currently.

Another stab from Itachi and Sasuke could feel like liquid metal was being poured on him in every which way. Sasuke gritted his teeth as the pain continued. What now felt like hours seemed to turn into days.

Another stab, and Sasuke screamed once more and this time, Sasuke smacked the floor with his right-hand multiple times being forced to feel that pain once again lingering for hours in Sasuke's mind but a mere fraction of a second in Itachi's illusion. Sasuke gritted his teeth and looked back at the Itachi that was pinning him onto ground and found out that he couldn't dispel it. It was here that Sasuke saw Itachi's sharingan had changed into the Mangekyou. Sasuke couldn't help but stare into those eyes and as if on instinct, Sasuke's Mangekyou Sharingan flared to life, corresponding to Itachi's very own and Sasuke stared hatefully at his own brother.

"So this is your Mangekyou…"

Before Itachi could finish his sentence, the world around them shifted in color from red to black and white, like a negative film clip that started from Sasuke's very own eyes and spread completely outwards.

All around them, Itachi and Sasuke's perception has changed, the sky had turned blue once more and color returned to their faces. In front of Sasuke, Itachi looks at him, a new emotion plastered on his face that replaced his stoic demeanor. This one, now one of surprise?

"Tsukuyomi was…" Cancelled, beaten, nullified.

Words to describe what just occurred, a phenomenon that not even Itachi could fathom. Even those with the sharingan, Tsukuyomi was a genjutsu that was nearly impossible to beat, the altered perception of time and space disorients the victim to the point of erasing a concrete form of perception itself entirely.

But Sasuke's Mangekyou Sharingan had totally shattered Tsukuyomi. It did not just bring it down to its knees, it completely shattered it.

This was something worth looking into.

Sasuke kicks his brother away, rolling backwards on the forest floor and getting up, a snarl on his face.

Seeing this moment of opportunity, Kakashi struck as he felt Itachi loosened his hold on him and swiftly dove underground with the Shinju Zanshu no Jutsu (Inner Decapitation Technique) and quickly surfaced behind Itachi with hands already finishing his set of seals.

"You've completely underestimated me, Itachi."

It was then that Kakashi's body was now surrounded by purple lightning and aimed to fingers at the clone.

"Raiton: Shiden (Lightning Release: Purple Lightning)!"

The clone bursts upon impact, purple lightning piercing its chest and then through the stone wall behind it. The attack was so fast that not even Itachi's sharingan could register when it had hit.

Mangekyou Sharingan now activated, Sasuke crouched down and prepared for his run, sword discarded on the forest floor, Sasuke ran at Itachi like a mad dog from hell.

It was here that Sasuke disappeared from Itachi's view, his visage waxing and waning as he approached.

With his own Sharingan, Itachi was quick to react with Sasuke appearing to his left with a punch ready to his face and Itachi reacted accordingly, only for Sasuke to vanish once again, his being bending and waving as he disappeared once more.

Sasuke then reappeared behind Itachi, in mid spin as he was about to introduce his foot to his older brother's face. Once more, Itachi reacted accordingly, putting an arm up to block the kick that was aimed for his head as he had no time to dodge. Only to once more vanish again like a specter and this time, appearing on to Itachi's left with hand seal ready. Itachi's left index finger twitched and pointed at Sasuke but the younger of the two disappeared in a blur now, and Sasuke was already to his front, with hand now charged with lightning, momentum hitting its peak as he shoved the lightning enhanced hand straight to the chest.

Itachi had not even heard the distinct sound of a thousand birds chirping as Sasuke shoved the Chidori straight to his chest and piercing through all the way to his back.

Itachi gave out a grunt of pain and a small smile escapes him as his mouth bled and soon, the grip of the impersonation jutsu was ending. But he had known enough. He had successfully done his part of this mission.

Sasuke was surprised, when the image of his brother changed to that of an unknown man with a headband from Suna. Blood escaped from both his lips and his chest as Sasuke pulled out his arm and wordlessly laid the person to the ground.

"Suna shinobi? Were they the ones who came here earlier?"

Kakashi had managed to catch up to him and saw what Sasuke had done. He looked down and saw that it was indeed a Suna shinobi, but he knew that they had fought the real thing earlier, it had just about as much of Itachi's abilities and quirks down to a letter. So then, how was it possible that such information just happens to slip through their senses?

The more Kakashi thought about Akatsuki, the more serious they become as a threat.

Kakashi looks at Sasuke wordlessly and sees him silent, cleaning the arm that he used to shove in some random man's chest. Sasuke looked none too pleased that his revenge was taken away yet again. A little more incensed that someone else had to die just for Itachi's shadow to creep up on him.

'Your power… Interesting. It seems I have to look at your growth more than I should.'

Sasuke looked displeased even more, 'You can go fuck yourself, Indra.'

Yet, there was a glimmer of hope that reached out to Sasuke. He managed to harm Itachi for the first time since their last meeting. The night of the massacre left him a mess, the day of Naruto's capture and near death drove him to despair, all those times, Itachi had destroyed him without ever touching him. But now, Sasuke knew that he was near, as if he was an arm stretch away from his brother. He just needed to continue his pace. If Itachi's use of the Mangekyou Sharingan was any indication, Sasuke could very well catch up to him sooner rather than later.

This thought crossed his mind and Sasuke seemed a bit more satisfied than earlier. At least he now knew how close he is, and it will only be a matter of time.

"The scent we are tracking has come to a full stop, approximately two hours away from here." Pakkun had reappeared. Kakashi and Sasuke looked at the small dog and began their trek once more towards their intended destination.

As they left, a crow silently watches them from the perch of a tree.


With Naruto and Team Gai:

It took them an hour and a half to get to their destination and finally, they made a complete stop towards a cave sealed shut with a giant rock at the mouth of the cave. A giant seal was plastered at the face of this rock. It looked deceptively simple if one were to only take a glance, but this was a seal that was much more complex. There were subtle hints that Naruto could take notice, like how the paper used to inscribe the seal with was still pristine, with no blemishes, creases and dirt seen on the sealing tag.

But Naruto could also make out small writing overlaps that stretched beyond the sealing paper. It was faint, but just like the seal he had found in Izumo, this one was no different.

Analyzing the seal was out of the question, time was of the essence. Naruto grabbed the handle of Minamoto no Banbutsu, the seal placed on it started burning up and consumed as the purple rope untangled by the tsuba and releasing the blade.

Naruto then unsheathed the wakizashi the blade glistened by the sunlight. Neji and the others watched as Naruto pointed the blade directly at the seal.

Chakra saturated at the tip of the blade, Minamoto no Banbutsu complied, sensing a seal that its owner was pointing to. Wisps of chakra then escaped the blade and back towards the blonde, as five circles of sealing matrices began forming in midair and around the blade spinning in opposite directions from the circle before it.

"Begin, seal structure analysis and decoding."

The seal before the team started glowing slowly, Naruto then remained still, letting the chakra flow naturally towards the seal and the sword began to do its work.

"Seal structure analysis, ongoing, revealing redundancies in seal defense."

With those words, the seal matrix that made the main sealing on the rock began to appear, spreading in four cardinal directions. Neji, Tenten and Lee watched in fascination as one by one, the swirling five seal matrix rings surrounding the blade stopped, first at the tip and then those that followed right down to the ring near the base.

Then, Naruto turned to his upperclassmen and spoke, "Once the seal is deconstructed and removed, you guys have to destroy that rock immediately!"

It would take a few more minutes to remove the seal, but those precious minutes were much less time consuming than to manually remove the seal and its redundancies or whatever trap was laid with them.

With a flick of his wrist that was holding the sword, Naruto twisted his hand in a counterclockwise motion and in a ninety-degree angle, as if gesturing of turning a key and unlocking a door.

"Begin seal degradation process."

Minamoto no Banbutsu complied, the blade glows as a beam of chakra went straight to the seal. And slowly, the chakra began to spread to the matrices that appeared in four cardinal directions and glowed once more with Naruto's chakra enveloping them and slowly, the written words began to contort and spasm.

His chakra had reached to the far corners of the seal in record time and these matrices that lined up the four different seals up north, south, east and west began to glow as well. Naruto's chakra detected a trap, but the chakra that Naruto imbued overpowered the seal trap as it began to degrade the outer matrix and on to the main sealing core itself.

Back at the quartet at the mouth of the cave, the sealing lines that were made up of the matrix of the seal itself slowly began to dissolve, the seal on the large rock began to glow and seconds later, started to peel off.

With a command, Naruto shouted to Lee, "Now, Lee! Remove the seal!"

Lee nodded and did so as he jumped and peeled the seal off manually. Naruto then turned to Neji and Tenten who nodded.

Naruto nodded as well, now they knew what to do. A shadow clone appeared beside the blonde, taking his position in place and sat down before performing a set of hand seals and then aiming his palm at the original, natural energy gathered around the clone and multiple seal lines began appearing around the clone's body and on the ground, he sat on as he then channeled that Natural Chakra towards the blonde.

This was the solution he came up with using Sage Mode. A way to reroute natural energy towards the original on an indefinite amount of time if he maintained his range. The transfer of energy remotely was not as wasteful as having clones as a stockpile that limited him to only three shots with only a certain amount of time, four if the original also entered sage mode.

Training with the toads, the fundamental aspect of remaining still was part of what will always remain as the point of achieving Sage Mode. It took him time to gather Natural Energy, there was no denying that. And that alone remains as one of the weaknesses of Sage Mode. Maintaining sage mode was also another problem. Naruto was limited by not only time but also usage of this new power up. Sage chakra was finite in him, and he needed to gather more natural energy for his more powerful Jutsu. Which also narrows the time he has use for it.

It was cumbersome for Naruto, but with this method he developed on his own, he eliminates those weaknesses. He just has to remain still for just a second for the natural energy to mix with him as his clone supplies him with Natural Energy constantly. It was like being attached to a plug with a long cable. And as long as he can maintain sage mode, he would not need to stockpile clones and if he needed to be out of range, the clone could just move and maintain the distance to maintain that connection. It would have helped if he had someone like Fukasaku or Shima were there by his person to not let it be a bother so much but he supposed that beggars can't be choosers at this point in time.

Once Naruto gave them the go signal, Neji activated his Byakugan and Tenten let loose a hail of metal wrapped with explosive notes and a cascade of explosions occurred hitting the rock and destroying it in three seconds. With that done, Neji activated his Byakugan and activated Denko Sekka (Lightning Speed) and charged right through the smoke to take point. He was soon followed and flanked by Lee and Naruto with Tenten taking the flank.

Their focus was to rescue Gaara, Neji, being readily available with his speed, would be the one to get their objective, Naruto and Lee, will be the ones to intercept Gaara's captors and distract them.

It was at this point that Naruto now in sage mode was suddenly bombarded with something wrong in his senses.

"STOP!" He shouted and Team Gai looks questioningly at the blonde who was staring up. They followed their peer's vision and looked up as well.

Twelve different chakra signatures with three that he could recognize, but those were dwarfed by something unsettling in the pit of his stomach as much as he did with sensing the One-Tailed Shukaku.

Nine individuals, seven of them were nothing more but static, with two of them being real. They were all staring at them as they stood on one finger of each to a hellish looking statue that was looking like it was in agony with its mouth open. No, this statue didn't look like a statue at all, but more like a gigantic husk of a being. From the very depths of it all, Naruto was sensing chakra, and it wasn't faint but it remained in static, the chakra was recognizable as the Ichibi, but there was something in there that unsettled him. Something that he couldn't tell. But it seemed to shake Asura and even Kurama to their cores.

'No… The Gedou Mazou!' Asura cried out. His father had told him of the tale of his ancestry once and how this statue was supposed to have been sealed beyond the reach of anyone. Only someone who had intimate knowledge of the Rikudo Sennin would have known where it was!

'This is dangerous, we need to destroy that statue before these humans manage to complete what they're trying to achieve! The Gedo Mazo means a catastrophe for all of us!'

'The Gedo what now?' Naruto asked, that unsettling feeling turned into curiosity and somewhat fear. If these two ancient beings can recognize and look scared out of their wits upon seeing this thing, then it sounded like this thing was something to be terrified about.

"It seems that the redundancies we set up for this ritual to not be interrupted was dismantled. Kisame, I had hoped that with more chakra you were willing to share, it would have proved to be enough to stop them." The one who stood at the left index finger spoke, his rippling, striking eyes turning to Kisame who was grinning from ear to ear, but from the Gentoshin no Jutsu (Human Lantern Technique), it was hard to tell.

Kisame replied, "We didn't expect as much growth from them now. They were mere chicks when we first saw them, genin, as it were. But three years is a short time to see such a leap coming from a prosperous village."

"Adversity is what shapes humans. You'd do well not to underestimate the determination of people." Red Sharingan eyes then turned to Naruto as he spoke to his leader.

"Not before the eyes of God." Said the apparent leader. He then turns to the only two members present at this hideout, Deidara and Sasori.

One of the people standing on one of the fingers looked terribly annoyed at this, the man stared at the leader for a few seconds but decided to let go. He was not going to mess with the man that managed to subdue him without difficulty.

"Capture the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki, kill the rest."

Sasori gave an annoyed grunt, the puppet master griped at this, "Great, more work from Pein. What about the ritual?"

The apparent leader, now designated to be named as Pein, merely pointed to the statue.

Naruto took a good hard look at the man, even if his image was distorted. Purple eyes with a rippling pattern. Asura and Kurama all looked at the image and were surprised. No words can leave their mouths, nothing they could say would be worth it for now.

"There will be other avenues to finish this. We are almost done, anyway. There is little chakra left from the Jinchuuriki here. Bring it to the hideout that I will tell you once you finish this."

Naruto lowered his gaze. What he saw made him seethe with rage.

In the middle of the sealing ritual lay Gaara, motionless, dropped immediately as the ritual was suddenly stopped. Not even any form of respect was given to him, to Akatsuki, it sounded like he was a seen as a mere object.

Naruto, after a long while, was now filled to the brim with hatred. He had seen people being treated like discarded items after they served their purpose. And to see Gaara be treated like a mere object for their goals did not sit well with him. He was outraged. These people, no, they weren't people, they were monsters.

"Gaara is not a toy to be messed with. You motherfuckers are going to pay what you did to him!"

The Kyuubi's chakra was leaking. His emotions were getting the better of him. All those years of being trained how to calm down were vanishing in seconds.

His eyes, yellow with the use of sage mode, changed in color to red. Slits began forming in the middle of the bars as Naruto's features turned much more feral. The Nature Energy within him was going haywire, forced to adjust to the influx of Bijuu Chakra.

Deidara merely gave a mirthful laugh. The mad bomber then jumped down just in front of Gaara's unconscious form and with the utmost disrespect to the Jinchuuriki, sat down hard on Gaara's stomach with a finger taunting the blonde as if telling him to try.

"Come get some, Kyuubi Jinchuuriki."

The Gedo Mazo then disappeared in a giant cloud of smoke as the silhouette of the remaining seven people vanished along with it. Smoke filled the cave. A vicious cry was heard with Naruto charging through the cloud of smoke and Neji was too late to stop the blonde.

"Naruto, no! We don't know what we're up against!"

Deidara smirked, he had laid spider bombs just as the smoke surged forward. The jinchuuriki would step into a field of landmines before Naruto could touch Deidara.

Explosions were heard continuously within the cloud as Deidara laughed at the fool's decision to charge at him without ascertaining the terrain first.

Beside him, Sasori slowly walked to him, and the puppet master observed.

There were still multiple explosions occurring, surely it should have stopped by now with the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki having blown his legs off from Deidara's actions.

But that was not to be, because out of the cloud of smoke, Naruto emerged with hate filled intent. In his hand was a Rasengan but this time, red in color, and the bombs that were supposed to dismember his legs seemed to not work on him.

"WHAT THE F-"

Deidara could not finish that sentence as he was slammed with a Rasengan on his chest and in less than a second, Naruto detonated the Jutsu, sending Deidara flying away spinning rapidly in mid-air.

Naruto turned to Sasori, who used his tail to swing at the blonde but in a precise moment that Sasori could only describe as how a sharingan user could, timely evaded his tail swipe even with low visibility and Naruto charged at him at an opportune moment with fist cocked back as Naruto aimed to decapitate Sasori with a Sage Mode enhanced punch.

Sasori, who had the reflex of any S-rank Shinobi would have, had managed to put up a hastily formed defense with his right wooden arm that shattered upon impact. Sasori was suddenly sent flying back. Naruto managed to calm down as he went back to Gaara, looking for any signs of life.

'There is a pulse.' Asura said this and Kurama nodded.

"There is still a chance to save him."

Naruto turned to Kurama, eyes wide open, in shock that Kurama seemed to be giving him information for his sake.

"Jinchuuriki are humans that are connected to the chakra of their bijuu. Their system relies on the chakra because of a forced introduction of our chakra into their bodies. The moment we are ripped from the host, we take with us, the chakra that our containers possess, essentially dropping their chakra to zero."

Kurama turned to look at his container who was wordlessly looking desperate by the second as the Kyuubi no Kitsune then pointed to himself.

"Some of Shukaku's chakra is still with me. Right now, your friend has only but the essence of Shukaku left within him. If you introduce the chakra left behind by Shukaku to him, the body will kickstart its own production of chakra and will recognize Shukaku's presence to kickstart its own production of chakra as well."

Naruto turned to look at Gaara and mind already made up. Naruto dug deep into his person, into his own chakra and found the presence he was looking for.

With a nod, Naruto kneeled beside Gaara and his right hand glowed with power before he slammed it on Gaara's stomach.

The first few seconds nothing happened, and then the slow breathing pattern began to form. Gaara was displaying a chest rise without much trouble, Naruto sighed in relief as he let go of sage mode for now, cutting the link to the outside clone as he leaned down and began to carry Gaara.

Naruto thought that they were safe now, a big mistake on his part.

A few seconds later, a giant clay bird appears just beside the blonde and proceeded to grab Gaara by its claws and swooped away with the Kazekage in tow.

The smoke then cleared, and he saw Deidara with his cloak in ruins, narrowly escaping his fate from being blended into nothing and now escaping through the entrance of the cave, passing by Team Gai and having cleared of any obstacles in its path.

Naruto growled and soon began giving chase.

Team Gai was about to follow, but there was a disturbing sound coming from somewhere within the cave. They turned around, and saw Sasori walking towards them, loud clicking sounds were heard as they saw blue chakra lines forming on his damaged wooden right arm.

"That insufferable brat, ruining Hiruko like this. I will make that boy pay!"

Small little claws then began extending from the wooden stump on its arm and chakra strings began sprouting from them multiple times, grabbing the destroyed fragments of his right arm on the ground, before the small chakra strings pulled them back and the small pincer arms on the stump began to repair the damaged arm as best as they could.

Sasori then brandished his left arm, with multiple cylinders of iron wood popped out of the arm and aimed it at Team Gai.

"But first, I will have to deal with you three."

Sasori was angry, and he was going to vent his anger at these three children who associated with the boy that ruined his favorite puppet.

And then Sasori fired the cylindrical tubes from his arms, and each of them changed their vector as these objects homed in on Team Gai.

"Scatter!" Neji commanded and the two behind him did as they were told. The missiles that Sasori fired all landed from where they stood and exploded upon impact, letting loose a purple mist in the process and spreading outwards, Team Gai were at a safe distance from what the poison smog could reach but it was at this time that Sasori had managed to repair the right arm, but it was not the same as it was before. Instead of having the same function as the left arm, this arm let out his poison in a more direct manner.

Poison dipped senbon.

Perhaps the dose would not be as lethal but enough to incapacitate for the main weapon to do its job, his tail.

Sasori brandished his newly restructured arm from his destroyed one and aimed a small tube of about half an inch wide popped out from the forearm and the fingers on said arm began rattling and clacking menacingly as the tube that popped out earlier began firing senbon at an unprecedented rate.

RATATATATATATATATATATATATA

The sound goes, as Sasori let it loose in a twitchy manner almost spreading the hail of senbon in a cone like fashion.

As soon as the right arm was aimed at them, Tenten prepared herself and stepped in front of Lee this time, now with Tsukishiro that materialized in her hand. She commanded Lee to stay behind her as she told Lee to get low while she crouched as well as her shield endured the barrage of poisoned needles that merely bounced at the glave turned shield.

Neji performed the Kaiten and deflected the needles.

Sasori clicked his tongue disdainly. He had expected the Hyuuga to have mounted a defense, but not the other one that provided defense for her teammate. He supposed that he would come about in a different approach.

From any standpoint, one would expect for Sasori to be slow and bulky. The humpback has never shown any feats that would alert them of any form of mobility that Team Gai could overcome.

But that changed when the team heard a rip of clothing coming from Sasori as six mechanized legs had sprouted from the Akatsuki member, now revealing of what was underneath the black and red cloth. The man was on all fours, with six additional legs that was used for additional mobility, the hands were supplemented by the gauntlets that he had shown earlier. This time, the obvious humpback earlier was made out to be a thick shell that covered Sasori's back with the shape of a face with its mouth agape. The large prehensile tail came from the mouth of this structure that hovered just above the puppet itself.

Tenten was looking closely to every feature that their enemy had and many of the parts and functions of this shinobi had reminded her of something.

"This is a puppet." She concluded. She had seen a puppet user before, and this seemed like it was no different.

Hidden weapons beneath its person, and weapons dipped in deadly poison at that. This person reminded her of Kankurou. There was no doubt about it, by the way this person operates, the fundamental use of such hidden weaponry in an unusual weapon made it clearly known that they were fighting a puppeteer, one from Suna at that.

The question remains, where is the puppeteer. Tenten looks at Neji while she and Lee were behind her shield and Neji understood at once.

Find the puppeteer.

Byakugan flaring to life, Neji's eyes probed around the cave, expecting to find chakra strings only to find none.

His attention turned back to the puppet. He couldn't tell exactly what was happening, but he could see a mass of chakra in the form of strings fanning outwards to different parts of the puppet but he could tell there was more than ten of them. It was strange, the Kugutsu no jutsu's chakra threads were mostly limited by the number of a puppeteer's fingers. It was said that the most skilled puppeteers could control a puppet with just a single chakra thread. But this one had at least double that amount. Which told him that this puppet had more hidden features and that to operate it properly, there were several support mechanisms inside designed uphold the main features of the puppet itself. The puppeteer wasn't hiding someplace else, the puppeteer was concealed and protected by the puppet itself.

"The puppeteer is inside that thing." Neji claimed, and wordlessly began counting the chakra threads with his Byakugan.

Thus, Neji tasked himself to discover the weapons layered within the puppet and hopefully drag the puppet master out.

"That means we have to destroy that thing to stop the puppet master." Lee mentioned as Sasori began crawling towards them in erratic fashion much like how a real scorpion was approaching its prey.

"I doubt you can even touch Hiruko." Sasori mentioned as two crescent blades popped out of the right forearm curved inwardly and dripping in poison to pincer Lee. Tenten threw Tsukishiro at the monstrous puppet forcing Sasori to block with the pincer blades as the glaive bounced out of Sasori's weapon.

Tenten then tapped three seals on to her gloves.

"Kokuzo Bosatsu: Akisazame (Boundless Space Treasury: Autumn Sand Rain)!"

A polearm materialized around her in a blink of an eye quickly grabbed the Naginata to her right and twirled it above her head as she pointed the tip of her spear at Sasori. Tenten then thrusts the weapon at the puppet who merely jumped back.

Sasori knew what the girl was trying to accomplish, she would be using her Naginata to gain enough distance that he couldn't get in as close as he can. The puppeteer glares at Tenten and then with a clack from the puppet, the mouth of Hiruko opens revealing another cylinder that looks as much like the previous one and aimed it her.

Tenten, recognizing what Sasori was about to do, twirled her naginata once more and began to gather the wind around her. Turbulence began to pick up, the winds howling inside the cave as Tenten kept spinning the Naginata above her.

As Sasori lets loose a barrage of poisoned needles once more on her, Tenten used the wind to deflect and cut away at the senbon thrown at her.

If annoyance ever showed its face to Sasori, then it was not obvious as the puppet wordlessly began its approach once more only to be met with Neji, lightning crackling around him as the Hyuuga strikes the left arm with a lightning infused palm.

The plasma surges downward, piercing the left arm gauntlet and shattering the weapon upon impact. Sasori growled inside Hiruko as he then swung the massive, poisoned tail above him to at least scratch the Hyuuga and just as he was about to hit Neji at the last second, said Hyuuga reacted instantaneously by going above the tail and striking the middle of it with an air palm forcing the tail down and somehow creaking from the force of the blow. The lightning pierces the tail, but once it hits the back of the puppet, only the clothing covering the back was burnt to a crisp as the material underneath it did not seem to be affected if at all.

Neji studied his blows to the puppet. Earlier, it showed that one of its features is the ability to self-repair by a system installed in between the armaments that it had. He was sure that the small miniature claws that went into fixing the tools on Hiruko was not just limited to its arms, it had to have been spread out and had flaws in its system. Neji watched as the threads inside the puppet began shifting.

Neji then jumped away just as he landed the second blow, but his attention maintained on the threads inside as Hiruko's systems began repairing the damages done to it.

There just had to be a limit for the who puppeteer can do with all these intricate systems in place!

For each thread, there had to be a limited function on how Sasori could maintain such a complex puppet.

Then, he notices something, a tiny sliver of change seen in Sasori, the damage that Sasori received on Hiruko was not as extensive as Neji had hoped.

But something about such a trivial thing for a puppet like Hiruko made Sasori ponder to change his approach. One by one chakra threads began changing places, no doubt trying to repair the damage that he dealt with earlier.

As the puppet fidgeted and spasmed in the floor, it was here that Lee decided to complete their objective.

Activating Kongosho, Lee immediately made a mad sprint towards the puppet.

With Sasori working overtime to repair his puppet, he immediately noticed Lee about to strike him down. The puppeteer had managed to move the right arm of his puppet and tried to pincer the taijutsu user with his blade claws only for Lee to vanish at the last second, Sasori then saw two of his target gliding on both sides before Sasori felt several blows to the left of Hiruko before being sent flying and on shattering the legs.

Sasori wasn't done yet and decided to fire two of the left gauntlet's rearmed missiles at Lee. The two projectiles went sailing past Lee as the cylinders broke in midair and unleashed the senbon that were hidden inside.

Neji, seeing that the needles were about to fall on his teammate, appeared by Lee's side and grabbed him by the shoulder before vanishing in sight and reappearing besides Tenten who held the Naginata high.

"I have deduced all of the weapon systems that this puppet has by now." Neji proclaimed, his two teammates turned to look at him and Neji nodded. Neji then pointed to the puppet.

"This puppet not only houses the puppeteer, but it also has a system that activates a self-repairing mechanism inside it connecting to the different points of the puppet itself. The hood that is attached to the main body of the puppet is thicker than most parts, suggesting that it gives a more reinforced form of defense. I had intended to strike that target with my Raisho (Lightning palm) but that hide is composed of metal that absorbs chakra and uses it to its own, like how that chakra armor that Team Seven had seen from Yuki no Kuni. This tells me that we have two options to stop him and render him useless."

As Sasori began repairing his favorite puppet anew, the puppeteer watched closely. He had underestimated these three. He would do well not to do so now, especially with the Hyuuga that has seen him operate Hiruko inside.

"The first option is to destroy that puppet completely faster than he could repair. It is a tedious process, but with the way he acts around his puppet, this tells me that he either favors his use of this puppet alone or he has another thing up his sleeve that he refuses to use. The second option is to topple it over and expose the less protected underbelly. As far as I see, Sasori's puppet has already shown all its armaments and features. Its main weapon is its tail. I saw a flow of liquid from it, with the tip hollow as it is like a syringe needle, its safe to assume that it is its main way to deliver poison. I have seen enough of this puppet to tell how this person works."

Sasori was impressed, this boy had managed to do his work. Sasori now knew his puppet Hiruko was compromised, it was only a matter of time for this team to break through his defenses.

So, before any of that were to happen, Sasori would make sure to pull out all the stops for his favorite puppet.


Outside the cave:

Deidara had burst through the cloud of smoke from the cave, standing on one of his creations as it flew outside. The Akatsuki member looks back, smirking as he did so.

Not many shinobi knew the ability of flight. Few actually did so, perhaps in the once chaotic times of the warring clans era, they might have had them, but it was just as recently as the first establishment of the villages and the first shinobi world war were formal records were started. As villages began to get organized, so too were the records of keeping list of all the abilities, jutsu and skills that famous shinobi throughout its formal history were started.

So Deidara was in for a shock, when the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki had burst from the smoke, riding what seems to be an ornately designed board, rushing at him as the winds howled in fury at the mad bomber.

No, he was not going to be taken by surprise again!

Deidara knew what he had to do, he had to forego the much slower creation he had made in favor of something more agile and faster than what he could do with this bird.

Deidara immediately grabbed the Ichibi Jinchuuriki that was held on by its tail feathers and jumped just in time as he saw the blonde shinobi had burst through his clay bird as it was severed in two, cleanly from what he could tell as he and his target were freefalling into the air.

Deidara grabbed one of his more prized clay sculptures from his bag and with a single hand sign, activated the small statue and was soon enveloped in a large cloud of smoke.

Deidara landed on his feet on the creature and stared up as he plopped his target down beside him and stared up.

The clay bird beneath him looked much sharper than the last, it looked like it was built for high speed in the air and with a mere flap of its much narrower edged wings, Deidara cleared through the smoke and flew much faster than his first clay bird creation.

"I never thought I'd use the peregrine falcon design ever. This was supposed to be used against that old fogey, Onoki"

The falcon flapped its wings once more and another boost of speed was seen as Deidara flew up with the Kazekage in tow, slip streams of wind escaping at the edges of its wings.

Naruto, now in midair, piercing through the clouds and out of his clone's transferring chakra seal, twisted in mid air and held the board by its side with his right arm, temporarily disconnecting his chakra from the seal to adjust his bearings.

Eyes turning blue once more, Naruto looked down and saw Deidara deploying another bird from his arsenal and this time, flew much faster than before. Growling in annoyance, Naruto connected his chakra to the seals on his board once again and flew down in a curve arc as he began to give chase.

Deidara then looked back once more, the visor in his left eye adjusted and zoomed in on the blonde, Deidara was able to notice the change in the blonde's eyes and smirked.

'So the color of his eyes changes in relation to his abilities. That means whatever tanked my spider bombs earlier would be much less durable now.'

To test this theory, Deidara grinned and unleashed a batch of pellet like substances that soon turned into several four-winged birds that he used to sick at Naruto.

Seeing the small claybirds made their way to him, Naruto opted to dodge them by making a sharp right turn and then a nosedive as the clay birds gave chase. Deidara then began to observe his pursuer in this case.

'Pretty good maneuverability with the speed to match, not to mention he doesn't require as much startup in getting into the air with that burst of wind. But I was right that he can't tank my bombs like he did earlier. Is this a special ability of the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki?'

It was not surprising. Each Bijuu had a predominance over one element or attribute. The Ichibi could manipulate sand and imbue cursed seals. It would be no surprise that the Jinchuuriki could have an ability that was distinct from the rest.

Bursts of explosions then escaped the forest floor and Deidara kept watch. His peregrine falcon sculpture kept hovering over the forest as Naruto zigzagged along the treetops avoiding the fast-moving clay birds, several explosions occurred in different places all at once. Naruto managed to avoid them all still, weaving through tree trunks and making sharp turns and corners through very difficult avenues of space that was afforded to him.

Deidara watched silently as he held up a hand close to his chest to a seal. The blonde's movements through the trees reminded him of hawks, fast, agile and maneuverable creatures in the air that could navigate through difficult terrain. They were not as fast as falcons or as powerful as eagles, but they certainly have enough traits that make them dangerous raptors in air and weave through trees for their prey. His observation of the avian species had helped him a great deal in his creations. He had first thought that the gift of flight was as good as it gets, but the more time he observed birds, the more he came to appreciate the intricacies of them.

More explosions on the forest floor, more of his creations went after the blonde, and more will come as Deidara created them en masse.

A shadow then loomed above Deidara, forcing the mad bomber to look up only to find the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki above him, staring downwards at Deidara with a middle index cross hand seal that soon covered Deidara's skies in clouds of white smoke.

'How the hell did he get above me!?'

Soon, hundreds of Naruto's clones appeared above, around and below him intent of swallowing him whole. In the midst of this impressive feat, the prone form of the Kazekage's right index finger twitched.

Deidara's eyes turned into pinpricks. An army of the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki that could fly, change attributes and do destructive jutsu like no one's business.

The Kazekage may have been a formidable opponent.

But this one was just as dangerous.

"Bunshin Daibakuha!"

BOOM!


To be continued…

Author's notes: I never anticipated that I would be writing this longer than I should. So many things to explore yet I have still yet to touch many of it. Though I did plan out on much of Naruto's peers' development, I only had a vague idea on what I wanted to accomplish in writing Part 3 until I was in the middle of writing part 2.

Also, now you know why this story diverges henceforth from Shippuden. Naruto and Sasuke can now corroborate what they witnessed and lay bare to what they hide. Indra and Asura are now going to take much of what I had planned with them and affect both Naruto and Sasuke in other ways.

Another thing is that Sasuke's special Mangekyo ability in canon was terribly underwhelming. Manipulating Amaterasu is a good concept but compared to abilities that Itachi and the rest of his clan had. I thought Sasuke's just didn't match up. Itachi's Tsukuyomi can alter the perception of time and space, Shisui can implant unbreakable suggestions, Obito can make himself intangible and send things into his dimension and Sasuke gets… To manipulate Amaterasu into smaller scales.

Now that isn't to say that Sasuke's abilities with the Mangekyou wasn't practical, it actually is, manipulating Amaterasu's flames is technical, smaller scale, more concentrated, more precise but certainly saves more chakra rather than just spilling it out, but it certainly didn't live up to Sasuke's hype. I must admit that Kishimoto dropped the ball more ways than one but when he dropped it on Sasuke, he dropped it hard. Here, I'll attempt to expand on his ability to control Amaterasu, what it is, it will be absolutely OP against Sharingan users. You only get to witness for now of what it eventually will be.

Next, Kakashi's purple lightning was never elaborated upon except with the light novels by Ukyo Kodachi. It certainly is more potent and a lot more useful than the lightning blade or Chidori that required a functioning Sharingan, it just did not have enough elaboration on what Kakashi can do with it. Hopefully, by what I can conceptualize, I can make several of Kakashi's abilities worthy enough that he is actually considered to be a Hokage candidate. Because I think that he is far outclassed by many of the Naruto world's Kage. He became a measuring stick for jounin and it felt like it stuck that way all throughout the series even by the very end and was even nerfed when he lost Obito's sharingan. He should at least be able to rival any of the Sannin to be considered Hokage, no matter how many jutsu in his repertoire, it will all be useless if these Jutsus are used for specific purposes and does not help Kakashi at all. At the VERY LEAST, Jiraiya held enough against Pain, Kakashi's genius should shine and should be able to do something as comparable to that.

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