Chapter 29

Disclaimer: Let's play psychic. Can you guess the thought running through my mind as I'm typing this? I'll give you a hint. It's starts with 'I' and ends with 'don't own Naruto'! :D

Thanks to Fernlight, Animefreak1145, Kyoichi Amaya, Sally95 (guest), and Silent-Himitsu for reviews.

Sally95: That seems to be what everyone is thinking... so I just might have to do shove that idea in the story somewhere. XD


"Ugh, I'm so tired..." Ruri groaned, pressing a hand into the small of her back. I sighed, regretting the decision to leave Iwa so early in the morning. Arashi shot me a look that told me he was thinking the same thing, and was blaming Ruri's exhaustion on me. The three extra days were a waste, the only thing we learned was that the alleged Akatsuki member, Deidara, had once been an Iwa nin. I knew that from the headband he had worn when we fought him during the Kazekage rescue mission. "Just keep walking, Ruri... We can rest when we get to the Fire Country." I urged my friend along. The fifteen year old girl heaved a large sigh and shuffled a few more steps before stopping, her bright blue eyes suddenly alert. Arashi and I paused, watching her. As far as scouts went, Ruri was one of the best. She was able to identify noises that were almost impossible to pick up. It was truly uncanny.

Ruri stood still, listening for whatever had alerted her. In the silence there was a miniscule snap of a twig. With surprising speed, Ruri twisted and threw a kunai towards a bush fifty feet behind us. Both Arashi and I reached for out own weapons, ready for whatever enemy came crawling out. The bushes rustled more, shaking violently now. We all tensed and a small white bird hopped out the bush, its beady eyes watching us; it almost looked like the bird was glaring at the three of us. Arashi and I shot Ruri looks while she giggled sheepishly and blushed, "Whoops, guess I'm just that tired. Sorry, won't happen aga-" She was cut off when the white bird, which had been ignoring us up to this point, flew right at her. Ruri threw up her arms instinctively with a cry of alarm.

Then the bird exploded.

All three of us were blown back from the explosive. My back slammed into a tree trunk and I slid down with a groan of pain. Shaking my head to clear the ringing in my head I staggered to a stand, one hand braced against the tree's rough bark. I should have seen that coming. Cocky laughter filled the air and I glared at the man now standing in the clearing. The last time I had seen this guy was when he had captured the Kazekage.

Deidara smirked, "You're lucky I'm in a good mood, un. I could have killed you then, but I decided to play with you first." He told us. I glanced at my teammates to make sure they were okay. Arashi was helping Ruri to her feet, his expression concerned, but both of them seemed well. Deidara smirked at the two then at me. His blue eyes widened and he pointed at me, "Hey I remember you, yeah! You were with those damn Uchihas." I glared at him and drew one of my katana, "It's hard to forget me." I said conversationally. The Akatsuki member laughed, "I'll say. With those scars, no one will ever forget you! It's kinda freaky actually, hm." If he was looking for a raise out of me, he was sadly disappointed. I didn't move from my position. Out of the corner of my eye I saw movement but didn't turn towards it, I didn't want to give Deidara an opening.

Suddenly shurikens came flying out from behind Deidara aimed at him. The Akatsuki dodged them easily and jumped into the trees. He tsked, "You should really think of a better strategy, un. That won't work." Ruri came out of hiding, sending death glares up at the Akatsuki member. Arashi eased out of the shadows behind my tree, "Are you alright?" He whispered softly, so Deidara wouldn't hear. I nodded and moved to join Ruri in the middle of the clearing, Arashi following me. The three of us stood there, glaring at the Akatsuki bomber, we were all close distance fighters and he seemed to know that and so was keeping a distance from us, giving him the advantage. Deidara leaned against the tree he was in, "You know... all three of you are pretty sorry shinobi, yeah. I've been following you ever since you left Iwa and you just now noticed?! Are all Konoha nins this bad, or is it just you, hm?" Arashi stiffened beside me, his muscles tensing to attack. I grabbed him, "When I say 'go' we all run, got it?" I hissed lowly. Both my teammates shot me incredulous looks, I glared at them, "Look, this guy fought and defeated the Kazekage by himself. And he fought three Uchihas, two Hyuugas, Kakashi-san, and Naruto with only one arm. We wouldn't last five minutes. Our best chance at survival is to run." Ruri and Arashi exchanged a look, but begrudgingly agreed.

We all turned back to the bomber, who didn't look too pleased that we were ignoring him, and pulled out throwing weapons, making it look like we were going to attack. The Akatsuki member smirked and plunged both hands into pouches at his hips, I guess that was where he kept his clay. "GO!" I yelled, as one we threw kunais, shurikens, and senbon needles before turning tail and making our escape while Deidara was forced to dodge our attack. I could hear his shout of anger and urged Arashi and Ruri to run faster. All too soon we were dodging bombs flying in out direction. I was surprised that Deidara was missing us so much. I had seen his attacks before, his aim was exceedingly sharp. So why was none of the bombs even getting close to us?

I realized why too late. By the time I figured out he was herding us somewhere, and about to call the team to a halt, Ruri broke through the trees and into a large meadow. The minute her foot touched the ground, it exploded. A shout of surprise escaped my mouth and both Arashi and I pulled back just in time to avoid the mines. Deidara's large clay bird, the thing he had been chasing us on, swooped low. The Akatsuki member laughed at our stricken faces, "Surprised, yeah? You truly are pathetic. Art is an explosion! A fleeting moment, and your friend has experience its power, un." Deidara said haughtily. Arashi gave an animalistic growl and jumped forward, kunai ready to slit the bombers throat.

While Arashi had Deidara distracted I cautiously ran for Ruri. She laid at the edge of the clearing, twisted and unconscious, but surprisingly alive. I would have expected that she would have died from such an explosion. As I inspected her, I realized it was a good thing that she was unconscious, the burns that covered her body were brutal, as was her broken bones. There was no way Arashi and I could finish this fight alone and somehow protect Ruri too. I pulled out a scroll painted red and looked up at Arashi still fighting Deidara. I gave a sharp whistle and both men glanced down at me. Arashi, seeing the scroll in my hand, landed a kick in Deidara's stomach and flipped off the bird. As he shot down towards me I slung Ruri's useless arm over my shoulder and stood, dragging my teammate up with me. Snapping the scroll open I twirled it in a circle and made a hand sign just as Arashi grabbed my shoulder from above...


I leaned back, "That is as much as I can do at the moment." I told Arashi, the wounds on Ruri were only half healed. I had used too much of my chakra activating that transportation scroll. The scroll didn't have a long enough range to put us in the Fire Country, but we had managed to get within half a day of the border. I just hoped that Deidara's clay bird wasn't fast. Arashi picked up Ruri, cradling her in his arms, "We should move, before the Akatsuki catch up to us." He stated. I nodded and set a brisk pace, knowing that Arashi would never be able to carry Ruri at a ninja run.

We had the fortunate luck of running into a group of traveling entertainers a few hours later. The lead man took one look at Ruri's wounds and silently ushered us into a closed cart full of wide eyed women. I slumped against the wall of the cart, panting; I hadn't realized how little chakra I had. Arashi glanced at me then rolled his eyes, "You over did it big time, Tora. You better not pass out on me, because I'm not carrying you back." He said dully. I glared at him tiredly, but my heart wasn't in it. I knew he was right, but no matter how long I thought about it, there was no way I couldn't have avoided losing so much chakra. Arashi had been too busy fighting Deidara to activate the transportation seal, and he didn't have healing skills. Ruri would have died before we reached Konoha if I hadn't healed as much as I could. There was a possibility that she still could die.

One of the women spoke up, "You're shinobi, aren't you?" Arashi and I both turned to the group of women, I had completely forgotten about them. From the look on Arashi's face, he did too. Shooting a cautious look at me, Arashi slowly nodded. "Where from?" Another woman asked. Arashi turned away rudely, leaning over Ruri's unconscious body. I answered them, "Konohagakure. I'm Tora and this is Arashi and the girl is Ruri." The youngest woman, who looked about Ruri's age, grinned, "That's so cool! I wish I could be a ninja!" Arashi shot the girl a strange look over his shoulder, wondering why she thought so. It was obvious that shinobi life wasn't as glamorous as most painted it, Ruri's burned and broken body was evidence of that. I rubbed absently at my jawline, feeling my ridged scars twist and pucker under my fingers. Yawning I shut my eyes and leaned my head against the cart's wall. I was too tired to think...


Sorry, it would have gotten to long if I didn't stop now.

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