"I don't think I've ever been to Kusagakure before," Ameji said, trying to think of all the missions she had been on while she lived in Konoha.
"I've only been there a few times, but I doubt that anyone would immediately recognise me," Itachi shrugged.
"That girl, Suttefani, looks kind of familiar…"
"I think she's been on missions with Konoha squads a few times. If my memory is correct, she is mainly a messenger and sometimes is sent as a guard for her Kage."
"Is she powerful?
"How would I know? I got my information from the Hokage. If there was an unfamiliar kunoichi chakra in our village and she was pretty much radiating power, then I would know."
They were silent after that for a few hours of running through trees in the direction of their target. Each thought of different reasons as to why Pain would want to keep this girl alive. If it was just because she had to be interrogated, they could do it or Zetsu could step in and do it quickly due to his quick modes of transportation through the ground.
Deciding to just drop the subject of their thoughts, they instead focused on the journey. Amejisuto had brought the food this time instead of dropping by small towns and buying whatever for the day. She pulled out an energy pill every once in a while and always offered some to Itachi, though he never needed them and declined the offer.
After a few days of almost non-stop running and jumping, the pill supply was starting to get low and the brunette stopped taking them. "These just can't be good for your health, can they?" she started slowing down and not being as precise as to where she landed on the next branches, almost falling off a few times. Itachi noticed and shook his head. Why hadn't she said anything? "I mean, it would probably be like drinking six hundred red bulls with all the pills I've taken in the past few days. I'm expecting a heart attack soon."
"We should get some natural energy by resting up when we get to the next small town. There should be one only a few minutes away," Itachi assured, trying not to be a participant in a growingly paranoid girl's worrying.
She was a strong kunoichi with a lot of chakra that would at least protect her insides. Getting over these unnatural energy bursts would be easy.
They were nearing the town and once it came into sight, Amejisuto gasped in delight. Though she was exhausted, she immediately perked up at the beautiful view.
It looked kind of like Airin, where they went on her traditional birthday mission, in the way of it being more of a resort town. "We're staying here?"
"Yes, we need rest. I doubt that Kakuzu would be too mad about us not finding the cheapest motel ever, especially after he just recently got all that money from the bounty he brought in about a week ago," Itachi smirked, leading the way to the nearest hotel. "We can probably stay here for a bit in the morning instead of rushing off."
The Ishi nodded and smiled. "This will be a nice small break."
"You know, you can go grave-robbing and get that Asuma guy," Hidan said, trying to get his partner in a better mood so he would stop cutting off his limbs every few hours because of a few words that set him off. Being cut up in the middle of a forest wasn’t fun; twigs and pine needles occasionally got stuck to his insides.
"I may be a ruthless killer that will do anything for money, but I am also not an idiot unlike you," Kakuzu mentioned nonchalantly, like he hadn't just called Hidan an idiot, though the albino wouldn't be able to do anything but get mad anyways.
"How is it a bad idea?" Hidan growled.
"He is most likely buried in Konohagakure grounds. It would be like walking into a death trap. We may be extremely powerful, but we would still have odds against us. There are ways of defeating us, and they would find them." Kakuzu paused in his walking and quickly jumped up into the trees.
"What the he-" The Jashinist was interrupted by an explosion that circled around him, burning him slightly. After a few seconds the clouds of smoke disappeared, revealing the same teenagers that participated in his previous fight, and a tall man with silver hair and a mask. Hidan knew him but he couldn't quite put his finger on where from…
Turning back to the explosion situation, the albino looked up behind him. "You could've warned me you bastard."
"If you can't sense a trap, then you shouldn't be a ninja," the old man hopped down from the trees and spotted the squad. "Oh look, the children are back."
"And this time, we're going to defeat you," the spiky-ponytail kid - Shikamaru - spoke.
"Alright, amuse us," Hidan smirked, launching himself into battle first facing off with the Nara.
Kakuzu looked annoyed, staying back for a few minutes as a one-on-one fight went on between his partner and the shadow user, before deciding that he might as well fight. The quicker he won, the quicker he would be able to search for more valuable ninja.
He sent wires from his arms toward the three other onlookers who reacted quickly, taking out kunai and blocking. The silver haired ninja ran at him, hoping for a close combat battle. Kakuzu smirked underneath his mask as he recognized Kakashi Hatake, the only non-Uchiha with a sharingan and copier of over a thousand jutsu's. He was worth quite a bit; possibly even more than Asuma Sarutobi.
In one of the Konoha ninja's hands, he saw a few sparks erupt into a ball of lightning that he could hold in his palm. It was quite loud, sounding like a mix of metal clashing together and birds chirping. 'So this is the famous chidori attack,' Kakuzu thought, deciding to have a bit of fun with his opponent.
Kakashi could barely believe it as the Akatsuki member didn't defend himself, letting him shove a palm full of lightning through his heart. The man fell over and the copy ninja stared in disbelief. "He went down so easily."
"Wait Kakashi-sensei, didn't Hidan go down easily at first last time too?" Ino remembered.
"Oh, the blonde's got a bit of a brain in there." Hidan smirked at the girl's upset look.
"Don't focus on her, focus on me!" Shikamaru distracted him, sending shadows that swirled around his opponent and shot up, solidifying in spikes that pierced the immortal.
"Why you brat," he growled. Shikamaru straightened up and fled deeper into the forest they were in with Hidan following closely behind, leaving Ino, Choji, Kakashi and Kakuzu in the clearing.
"You incompetent child, get back here and fight me. Stop running like a scaredy-cat!" the albino yelled.
"Oh wow, some actual intellectual vocabulary does sit in your brain," Shikamaru taunted, making sure to insult and aggravate the Jashinist as often as possible in order to keep him on his trail. They reached a point much deeper in the forest. An extremely familiar point to the genius. 'We're here.'
"Why you little-" Hidan was slightly confused when the teen whirled around, a determined and slightly smug look was etched on his face.
"Do you have any idea where we are?" he grinned.
"In a forest. What, do you think I'm a moron?" Hidan spat, getting ready to attack again.
The Akatsuki member was taken by surprise as he found he couldn't move his body at all. He looked down and noticed there were shadows all around them, and some were under the young ninja’s control, having climbed up Hidan's body while he was distracted and tightening in the exact spot that Shikamaru had planned.
"You're in the Nara district. My clan's forest. The deer here are our eyes and ears, and if we wish it, no one can escape this area."
"What are you talking about? I will escape with no trouble," Hidan started to panic, trying to wiggle out of the grasp of the shadows.
Shikamaru threw a paper bomb at the ground and lifted the Jashinist slightly with the shadows, revealing a large hole that was now under him. "You're partner is right. You shouldn't be a ninja - you fall for traps too easily." He then threw several dormant paper bombs onto the strands of shadows that held Hidan and opened the lighter Asuma gave him quite a while before when he wanted to quit smoking for his unborn child. He flicked it and a small flame poured out of the tip.
"Try to escape when you're in a thousand pieces," he threw the lighter at the bombs.
The reaction was immediate; all the bombs went off, more powerful than they would have without the aid of the flame. It was an instant chain reaction. Dirt, leaves, rocks and pieces of Hidan all fell into the hole at different moments, mixing the Jashinist's remains up enough for it to be impossible to reassemble himself. He then placed paper bombs around the outside of the hole, making them explode and cave in to fill it.
"I wonder how the others are doing," Shikamaru mumbled. "I should go help them...”
Kakashi and Kakuzu were in a heated battle once the former realised that the Akatsuki member was in fact still alive, just as Ino had been worried about. The instructions the copy nin had given them before they even sprung the trap on the two criminals was no not be involved in either of the fights unless he or Shikamaru had called for assistance; Ino was the healer of the group and Choji could get them back to Konoha in a few steps with his expansion jutsu.
They were left to stand back and watch on as the Jonin struggled to hold his own against the older and more powerful ninja.
"He still hasn't called you for help?"
They jumped slightly as they didn't notice their other team mate was standing right next to them. His chakra was incredibly familiar to them, after all.
Choji shook his head. "He's too stubborn to call us in."
"At this rate, he'll be dead before he even asks us for help," Ino sighed, worried for their comrade's safety.
"And the information about our opponent?"
"Well Kakashi-sensei ran his chidori through Kakuzu's heart but it was a mask inside. Apparently he has three or four more and they're all his hearts," Choji explained.
"That helps a lot." Shikamaru got into his thinking stance while Kakashi and Kakuzu kept at it, getting a few blows in each. The Konoha Jonin had a great disadvantage but was still trying and refusing to ask the Chunin to help. "Alright. We have to help him in this," he finally spoke again.
"Okay Shika, what should we do?" Ino asked, ready to help.
"Ino, you go for the heart that's probably located on the bottom right of his torso. Choji, go for the bottom left. I'll go for the top left and Kakashi-sensei can just be used to distract him," he said in a quieter voice so Kakuzu wouldn't hear the plan.
The teens nodded and approached the Akatsuki member from different directions. Shikamaru ran in first, trapping the man with shadows, leaving opportunities for the others to attack. Ino went in with flower bombs in her hands, throwing them in the general area on Kakuzu's body that she was supposed to target. Kakashi stopped fighting and stood back as the explosion broke another of the masks.
The shadow user was running out of chakra and knew he had to end his quota quickly. "Choji!" He called as he pierced his mask with a sharp shadow, effectively shattering it. The Akimichi shoved his hand in the lower left of the body, using an expansion jutsu to crush the mask. He was still glaring at them though, and they knew that he had at least one more mask in his body.
Shadows seeped away from his body and he was able to move once more; the Nara had finally run out of chakra. "You're doomed now, kids," he cackled, aiming his cords at Shikamaru.
"Not this time!" a voice called with a body following and landing down on the criminal with a blue orb in his palm. He smashed it against the criminal’s face, breaking the last mask and even obliterating most of his body.
The original squad looked at the newcomer and instantly recognised the blonde hair, blue eyes and whisker marks. "Naruto!" Choji cried with happiness that the jinchuriki had rescued his best friend from being torn apart by an Akatsuki.
"I wasn't too late! Woo!" the blonde cheered. "Granny Tsunade sent me as backup just in case. She actually had good intuition this time. By the way," he looked around. "Wasn't there another Akatsuki?"
"I already took care of him," Shikamaru said, walking towards Naruto a bit. "Thanks for saving our butts. We owe you."
"You guys never owe me. No one does! Though if you insist, it could all be repaid by a bowl of Ichiraku ramen, your treat," he replied with hope shining in his blue eyes.
The shadow user sighed. "Alright. We should go back to the village and report to the Hokage."
"Yes, let's go," Kakashi finally talked after that whole battle, leading the way back to Konohagakure with the others following closely behind.
"I'm afraid we have lost Hidan and Kakuzu," Zetsu reported to Pain, Konan and Madara.
"Quite the loss; they were some of the more powerful members," Madara shook his head.
"Who should we send as their replacements on the eight tails hunt?" Konan asked.
"I will go and so will Orochimaru," the elder Uchiha said almost too quickly, like he had already known somehow that the 'immortal duo' would be defeated.
"Should we attack Konoha after?" Pain inquired.
"It would be in our best interests if we didn't. Kakuzu and Hidan were defeated by a mere team of four normal shinobi and the last blow by Naruto Uzumaki. Taking down Konoha won't be an easy task without our store of tailed demons. We can't risk using the demons so soon on a task like taking down Konohagakure; we have to use it on a something bigger that would defeat the nine-tails jinchuriki in the process."
"Wait, does that mean what I think it does?" Konan gasped.
"Yes. We will have to start the fourth great ninja war earlier than planned."