A/N This story takes place at the start of the Hidan and Kakuzu arc, after Asuma had died, but before Team 7 went to help Team 10.
It wasn't supposed to be like this. When Naruto had asked her for help with perfecting his time-travel jutsu, Sakura had readily agreed. She was willing to help him in any way possible. He was, after all, the best way to get Sasuke back and he was also one of her closest friends. So far, all she had been able to do was give him food pills. (He ate every single one. She knew Sai had been faking when he had acted disgusted by them!) But now he was asking her for something much bigger.
Naruto had completed the Rasen-Shuriken a few days ago, and with nothing to do with his training time, had decided to go snooping around the Hokage building. Tsunade had kicked him out, but not before Naruto had found some interesting scrolls. As he had explained to Sakura, his time spent traveling with Jiraiya had taught him more than just new and improved Rasengan/Sexy Techniques. Jiraiya had shown him the basic formula required for writing seals. Originally, he had shown Naruto it to keep him occupied while he 'visited' the local baths. But Naruto had thrown himself into learning the kanji and symbols with such determination, that Jiraiya had ended up teaching Naruto a lot more than the basics.
The thing that Naruto liked about seals was creating his own. It gave him a chance to experiment, and he learnt best by trial-and-error. His biggest project yet was an unfinished space-time jutsu that the Fourth Hokage had been working on. He had found it when he had been mooching around the Hokage building. Naruto being Naruto, he had decided to finish it even though it shouldn't be possible. He had already done the near- impossible with his Rasen-Shuriken, and as he had shown Sakura yesterday, he had done it again.
Naruto had spent three days writing symbols onto a scroll that was big enough to list all the genin currently alive in Konoha. Once he had perfected the seal, he and Sakura had gone on a search for a small living organism. Naruto had found a slug under a tree, and after marking its exact position, had picked it up and dropped it onto the scroll.
Naruto had made a set of hand-seals, ending with the "Snake" hand-seal. The ink on the scroll glowed for a few seconds, and then the slug had disappeared. Naruto and Sakura had rushed back to the tree, and after searching for a few seconds, they had found the slug hiding amongst the roots. This was as close to proof as they were going to get, but it was enough for Sakura.
So when Naruto had started talking about improving the jutsu, Sakura had listened carefully.
"It's really easy, Sakura-chan! If I use some of the Kyuubi's chakra, I should be able to move a real person back a few minutes in time!" he had been bright eyed and animated, waving his hands around wildly to get his point across.
Then his shoulders had sagged.
"But I don't know if I could control the Kyuubi's chakra, and I wouldn't want to put anyone in danger."
The words had popped out before she had time to fully understand what she was saying.
"You could use me."
Naruto had stared at her in amazement.
"Really Sakura-chan? You trust me enough to let me send you back in time?"
Well… not completely. she had thought, but out loud she had said " I've seen that it works. And you'll only be sending me back a few minutes, right?"
Naruto had nodded, but had still looked troubled.
"Yeah, but, well… I don't want to lose you Sakura-chan. There's so much that could go wrong. If I send you back in time, you might not remember it. Or maybe we'll both remember. Or I could… Ugh! This time travel stuff makes my brain hurt! It's so much easier to draw seals then to think about how they work!"
Sakura had giggled slightly as Naruto clutched his head. They were on their way home from dinner at Ichiraku's with Sai. Kakashi was away on a mission, which left Yamato in charge of Team 7. As they walked along the path to Sakura's house, she had tried to convince Naruto.
"This kind of jutsu could change the shinobi world forever. You need to perfect it Naruto. Kakashi would be more suited for time-travel, but I'm the best you've got right now." Seeing as Naruto remained silent, she had carried on. "Look, how about tomorrow morning, we try it out? You know how to work it, so all I need to do is stand on the scroll. You send me back a few minutes, and collect important information about how the jutsu works."
Naruto had sighed.
"Fine, fine. I'll send you back in time. But if I say that it's getting too hard then we quit, ok?"
Sakura had grinned brightly and flung her arms around Naruto. They had reached her house by this stage, and she had run inside after giving a wave to the blushing boy.
The next morning, the two of them had gone down to training ground three. Sakura had stood patiently in the middle of the scroll while Naruto had fussed about the ink, the placement and the Kyuubi. Eventually, he had been satisfied, and had begun making hand-seals.
Sakura tried not to let her nerves show as Naruto went through the seals, but part of her was screaming: What the hell are you doing? This is Naruto! Do you really believe that he can memorize a ton of hand-seals and then repeat them in perfect order? Run! Run while you still can!
By the time her doubts had just about convinced her to jump off the scroll, Naruto had made the "Snake" hand-seal and the ink had started glowing. Sakura had watched as Naruto channelled his chakra around him. Soon, she could almost see the red glow surrounding him.
The next thing she knew, she was surrounded by white light. She expected it to last for a few seconds, but she had been stuck here for at least ten minutes.
What the hell is going on?
Kurama watched with interest as the boy started making hand-seals. Did the foolish child really expect him to just donate his chakra because the boy asked? The idea of 'rent' had lost its amusement to the fox.
The boy finished the hand-seals and began to focus his chakra. Kurama felt the strong pull, and debated what to do. He could just let the boy have some of his chakra, but where was the fun in that? No, Kurama decided to show the boy that he shouldn't play with things as complicated as time.
He let all his chakra flow into Naruto, enough to grant Kurama a slight consciousness in the jutsu. It took a few seconds for it to work, but Kurama found himself holding an orb of white light. He grinned menacingly down at it. Now who had the boy chosen as a guinea-pig?
The Kyuubi's interest perked even more as he took in the short mop of pink hair, framing the nervous looking face. Well now, this should be good.
Sakura Haruno. He knew her well. The boy had given him many chances over the years to get to know her. When they had first become a team, he had been forced to listen as she turned his container down again and again. She had been rude and obnoxious, not to mention useless. She had gotten slightly better over the years, but it still irritated him whenever he had to heal the boy after she punched him. The boy, being as foolish and idiotic as he was, had not taken the hint and left her alone, nor had he responded in kind to any one of her attacks on him. It was extremely irritating to watch him suffer so happily at her hands, without ever desiring to take revenge.
But now... now he had been presented with the opportunity to take revenge for the boy.
In Kurama's mind, there were two types of humans. There was the small group that he simply hated, and the much larger group that he utterly despised. Although he would never admit it, Naruto Uzumaki was in that first group.
And Sakura Haruno was most definitely in the second.
So he didn't hesitate before cramming as much of his chakra as he could into the glowing orb. The girl screamed as the chakra burned her, and he briefly saw the world through the boy's eyes. The boy was struggling futilely to control his chakra output, while the seals had surrounded the girl in bright orange light.
Kurama was then presented with a list of options. He had complete control over the girl's fate, other than killing her directly. How far back did he want to send her? Should he let her keep her memory? Where should he send her? When you had as much chakra as the Kyuubi, the options were endless.
Eventually, he settled on a few settings that would hopefully get her killed at the first opportunity. With one last scream and a flash of light, he felt the girl disappear from the ball of light. The boy collapsed on his knees, muttering a whispered "Sakura-chan." before falling unconscious. Kurama knew that when the boy woke up, his world would be changed forever.
He let out a low chuckle. Never let it be said that he didn't look out for his hosts.
10 years ago. The outskirts of Amegakure.
It was the first time in that the Akatsuki were all together, and it wasn't going well. Pein was paranoid, expecting an attack on Ame at any moment. Zetsu and his clones were patrolling the border, but that wasn't enough to satisfy him. He had sent four of his six Paths out too. When running a successful criminal organization made up of S-Rank missing-nin, you could never be too careful. While his Deva Path and his Asura Path stayed behind at the base, his other four Paths were searching the border for any traces of infiltration.
Seeing through six different bodies was a unique experience, one that took practise to get used to. Even now, Pein preferred to use only one body at a time, but that wouldn't work today.
He let the four paths continue their search, and pushed most of his consciousness into Yahiko's body. The Deva Path was standing regally at the head of the large chamber, Konan at his side. The Asura Path was skulking in the shadows, waiting for any trouble from the members.
Pein let his eyes scan over all the members of Akatsuki. Konan was, as usual, by his side, her face blank and cold. Kakuzu was standing alone. His partner, Nadare, was cowering fearfully in a corner. For a second, Pein almost pitied him. Nadare was never meant as anything more than a sacrifice. He was talented, but not talented enough. Sooner or later, Kakuzu would kill him.
His eyes moved to the other corner, where Orochimaru and Sasori were in deep discussion. Now there was a partnership that actually worked. Orochimaru and Sasori both were interested in immortality, and their fighting styles complemented each other. Pein doubted that either of them would die soon.
He noticed a lone Zetsu peering out of a wall. He ignored it. Zetsu was loyal, and had his uses. There was no need to be concerned over him.
Finally, he looked at the last two members. Kisame Hoshigaki was a terrifying sight to behold. As well as his looks, he had a brutish mind, and would chop off his comrade's head if it benefited the mission. Pein needed a very powerful shinobi to complement Kisame, but unfortunately, he hadn't found one strong enough yet. Until then, Aoi Yakushi would have to do. The man was a strong jonin, and it was a shame to waste his potential. Pein estimated that he would last a year, maybe a year and a half, before he died. Pein knew that his sacrifice would not be in vain.
Every day they got closer to achieving their goal. Little by little, they would build up their ranks until they were strong enough to strike. When they were ready, their true mission would begin…
Pein was jolted out of his thoughts as his Human Path sent out a mild signal into his brain. He transferred his consciousness over to it, wondering what had alarmed it.
As soon as he was fully aware of the Human Path's surroundings, he noticed what was wrong. Up ahead, through the thick rain he could sense a shinobi. Its chakra pattern was unfamiliar, and it had the reserves of a jonin. Pein was confident in his ability to bring it down.
He moved closer towards the shadowy figure. He expected it to leap at him in attack, or run away in terror. Instead, the figure crumpled to the ground.
Pein stopped walking. Could it be a trap? Perhaps. Pein was confident in his ability to beat any shinobi or weapon, even with just one path, so he kept walking.
If the figure's falling had startled Pein, it was nothing compared to the shock he had when he finally saw the person. It was merely a child!
The child was definitely not from Ame. It was a young girl, around five years old. She was dressed in civilian clothing, with short pink hair that covered her forehead. If this had been an ordinary child, the hair colour alone would have made her stand out. But that was not what grabbed Pein's attention.
He was able to sense how strong her chakra pattern was, even though she was clearly unconscious. She had enough chakra in her body for an adult jonin, and from the way it was moving along her chakra pathways she was clearly skilled at using it. This puzzled Pein. No girl this young should be this skilled, not even a prodigy like the Uchiha boy Pein's spies had reported on. From the descriptions his spies gave him, this girl wasn't a jinchuriki either.
He debated what to do with her. Pein was not a rash man, and he understood the importance of information. He could use the Human Path's powers to suck the girl's memories out of her, but that would kill her. He had no problem with killing a child if it helped further his goal, but he knew that this child could perhaps have more uses. A shinobi this valuable would be quite good bait, but her village wouldn't come looking for her if she was dead. He had heard no rumours about this girl from any of the Hidden Villages. If he could find out where she was from and how she had gotten this powerful, he could exploit that. Perhaps there were more children like her out there. If so, then he would need as much information as possible.
He picked her up and tossed her over his shoulder. Although there was chakra running through his Paths, they were still dead bodies. It took a lot of power for them to feel anything; therefore the child's weight didn't hinder him in the slightest.
He took off through the rain, heading back to the base. As he ran, he thought more about the child slung over his shoulder. Who was she? He hadn't sensed any other chakra patterns in the area, so the child had definitely been alone. Perhaps she was part of an elaborate infiltration ploy. Some village had known that a child this strong would catch Pein's interest, and had deliberately left her out so that he would find her and bring her to the base…
That thought alone almost made him drop the girl onto the ground and leave her to die. But he knew that he had no proof about anything, and that the only place with equipment for testing this girl was his main tower. He would bring her back, summon Konan and perhaps another member and then he would run tests on her body until she woke up. Then the proper interrogation would begin.
Pein had known that bringing all the Akatsuki together would result in an interesting day, but this discovery was not something he had expected. Perhaps this child was nothing special, and if so he could kill her or throw her out of the village to fend for herself. Perhaps this child would be his downfall, leading a group of shinobi straight to the Akatsuki. If so then his plans would be set back slightly.
But perhaps this child would become a valuable asset, and as he felt her chakra flow strongly through her body, he knew that it was worth the risk.