Salvation – An Itachi & Sakura story.
By: Mitsuki Shiroi
Disclaimer: Naruto and all its characters belong to Masashi Kishimoto.
A/N: And here's the final arc of the Metamorphosis trilogy, Salvation! Just to let you know, there are still spoilers in here up till chapter 290. Also, there has been a time-skip of four years in the story.
Chapter One – Once Again
Hidden underneath a bush, green eyes carefully watched the open space in front of her, a kunai poised in her hands. Sakura held her breath; only moments ago, a couple of Konoha ANBU had passed her. Although it was nobody she recognized, she knew that she would be identified as Tsunade's former student immediately.
Apparently, there was a rumor circulating that Sakura had died four years ago and she couldn't help but be a little pleased. This meant that no ANBU would be actively searching for her, that is, as long as nobody sighted her.
Positive that there were no more ANBU in the vicinity, Sakura stood up, her limbs sore from being locked in position for such a long time. Grunting softly as she massaged her throbbing legs, twenty-two year old Sakura returned her kunai back to her pouch before lifting her rucksack from the ground on her back. Another sigh passed her lips as she started running through the forest, towards her destination; the Country of River.
Her throat stung horribly as she coughed softly behind her hand, afraid that someone might hear her.
Over the years, she had become taller and her body had finally gained curves. Her Haruno shirt and the brown skirt she once wore were long gone; as a missing-nin, Sakura could not afford being recognized by someone who had heard about her clan. Now, her old attire was replaced by a silky, black shirt and dark-brown pants that reached her knees, giving her, what she thought to be, a very casual look if not for her forehead protector.
But Sakura had matured on the inside as well. Being a missing-nin, she couldn't afford any mistakes; one false move and she was dead. Her mind was sharper than ever, picking up and memorizing every significant detail she came across. Her skills had improved tremendously as she tried to pick up a couple of jutsu as she traveled through the world.
She was a force to be reckoned with.
If only her friends were here to see her now.
Her heart clenched almost painfully as she thought about her friends and family back in Konoha. It had been four and a half years since she had last seen them. She briefly wondered if Naruto had become an ANBU already, if he was together with Hinata… If Kakashi was still reading those perverted books of his… If Ino had given up Shikamaru or was still pursuing him.
So many questions she wished to be answered; so many questions that would be left unanswered forever. Thinking about her friends stirred the memory of someone else.
It had been four years since she had last seen Itachi.
Biting down on her lip, she allowed Itachi's image to flood her mind momentarily before pushing his beautiful Sharingan back to the far corners of her mind.
She had made a ardent promise with herself to forget the feelings she had for Itachi. He still haunted her dreams on a daily basis and when she woke up, she was still very conscious about the empty spot next to her, waiting to be filled by his warm body. But he wouldn't ever be there again; she had vowed never to go on that path again.
She didn't want to betray Sasuke's memory.
Sakura knew that she loved Itachi; albeit she never wanted it to happen, it did, and it hurt.
During the first weeks after she left Akatsuki, her pillow would be soaked with tears whenever she woke up. She found herself throwing away the robes she had received there and the shirt Itachi has lend to her; that masculine, unique scent of his lingered on the clothes and always seemed to drive her to tears. But there was one thing that she kept. One little reminder that her life with Itachi wasn't something that she imagined.
His Akatsuki ring.
Itachi had probably put it in her bag after their last morning together; she found it when she was busy unpacking her stuff when she spent the night in Grass. At first, she had been uncertain about what to do. Should she keep it or should she throw it away? Should she wear it or should she put it away and never look at it again?
In the end, she slid the ring around her finger and never took it off.
Her thumb softly stroked the cool surface of the ring as she started sprinting through the forest; her eyes alert as she tried to escape from the ANBU that were circling around the forest.
She held her breath as she ducked behind a couple of bushes. Barely a second after she had jumped away, ANBU landed on the place she had been standing moments before. As the ANBU moved on, she released her breath before standing up.
There were no more ANBU in the vicinity and this was her chance to get away from them and safely enter River.
Accumulating chakra to her feet, she dashed away, jumping from branch to branch. She smirked slightly as she realized that she was closing in on the border of River. It wouldn't be long now.
"Naruto!" Shikamaru knocked on the door. "Hurry up, the ceremony is today!"
As he moved his hand up to knock again, the door was opened violently and in the threshold stood a very nervous Uzumaki Naruto. Shikamaru took a moment to take in Naruto's messy hair and the way Naruto was shaking in excitement, anticipation and perhaps, fear.
"Ready?" Shikamaru drawled, smirking at Naruto as the blonde closed his door in silence before walking away with Shikamaru towards the administration building.
"Naruto, you should be happy," Shikamaru cast a worried look at Naruto. "You've been dreaming about this moment for over a decade. You're a Hokage."
"Hokage…" Naruto whispered softly, his voice sounding hoarse.
"Why are you up so late anyway?" the dark-haired boy glanced at Naruto. "You're usually up and running around at the crack of dawn."
"I was up early," Naruto replied, avoiding Shikamaru's piercing gaze. "I visited Sasuke and Sakura-chan."
Shikamaru remained quiet as his eyes saddened slightly.
It had been four years since Sasuke and Sakura died. Since that time, Naruto had grown silent and more mature than he thought possible It was as if the real Naruto, the prankster he knew since he was a little kid, had disappeared and made place for this serious looking man.
In terms of celestial bodies, Naruto was the earth while Sakura was the sun and Sasuke was the moon. The earth can live without a moon, but when the sun disappears as well, the earth slowly dies.
When Sasuke and Sakura died, they left a hole in Naruto's heart, which was vulnerable and could kill him if someone attacked him there again. Because of this, Naruto practically barricaded his heart, not allowing anyone near him again. He still had his friends and Kakashi, but it would never be the same as with Sasuke and Sakura.
Every since they had gotten back from that dreadful mission, Naruto had been visiting the memorial on a daily base with Kakashi. The two would sit next to each other, staring at the memorial and the names of their friends for hours, and when they parted, they did so wordlessly, just a nod in each other's direction.
Shikamaru sighed softly as he hit Naruto's shoulder lightly, causing the blonde boy to look up with a questioning look in his eyes. "Sasuke and Sakura wouldn't like it if you were gloomy on the day you became Hokage."
Naruto smiled sadly. "You're right."
"Of course I am," Shikamaru smirked. "Let's go, Hokage-sama."
"Yeah," Naruto returned the smirk halfheartedly. "Let's go."
"Room for one please," Sakura smiled at the man behind the desk as she inspected the inn. It wasn't fancy or crowded, but Sakura could care less at that moment. All she wanted was a warm bed and a hot bath and she would be just fine. Though she supposed that those were akin to luxuries in her lifestyle. That was the hard life of a missing-nin.
"Yes madam," the man said politely, giving her ring a curious glance before turning around to fetch the key. "Room ten is yours. Up the stairs and on your right."
"Fine with me," Sakura said flatly as she accepted the keys that the man offered her. She nodded politely before walking towards the stairs, dragging her bag along.
Feeling his eyes watching her back, she turned around and glanced at the man, only to find him staring back at her with a lustful look in his eyes. Sakura glared before turning around, ignoring the man's disturbing stare. "Pig," she muttered under her breath as she stopped in front of her room.
As far as she could tell, there were no other rooms occupied except the one opposite to hers. Sounds were coming from the room and it seemed that someone was talking. Sakura however took little interest in this. She snorted as she imagined two ANBU from Konoha in the room, playing cards while swatting away the cockroaches that probably roamed throughout the entire hotel.
Sticking her key in the keyhole, she turned it around until she heard a click. Turning the doorknob, she walked inside her room, surprised to find it completely clean and decorated with flowers—completely the opposite from the wooden floors and dirty walls in the hallway. Amazed, she looked at the bathroom, discovering a huge bath that was fit for two people,
I told him to give me a single room, Sakura thought, mildly irritated. But instead, he gives me a damn honeymoon suite.
A soft knock on the door made her look up. Throwing her backpack on the bed, she stalked towards the door. "Who is it?"
"Takemura, I'm the manager," the man outside said. Sakura instantly recognized the voice as the same one from the man who gave her the room. Relieved, she opened the door and stared at the man as he stood there with a disgusting, lecherouslook in his eyes
"What is it?" Sakura didn't care that she sounded impolite; she just wanted to take a bath and sleep.
"I was coming by to see if everything is alright madam," he smirked widely as he leaned against the threshold, arms folded.
"I'm fine," she tried to calm herself down. "Anything else?"
"Yes," Takemura straightened himself. "Dinner will be served at eight o'clock."
"I won't be dining here," Sakura said shortly.
"Do you want me to bring dinner up to your room then?" the tall man was still grinning, exposing his crooked teeth.
Sakura looked at him as anger surged through her veins, her hand itching to hit him. Unfortunately, this little outburst of anger temporarily made her forget her guard and she gasped in shock as his hand cupped her breast.
"Come on now, your husband won't ever find out," the man breathed as he pushed Sakura against the wall. "We'll be quick."
Husband? Inner Sakura shrieked. Who said ANYTHING about a husband!
"Get away from me!" Sakura roared as she punched him in the face, sending him flying through the door and through the shabby, wooden door of her neighbors.
She could hear a woman yelling and a man staring at her through the huge hole in the wall, but Sakura didn't stop to apologize. Grabbing her backpack from her bed, she hurried out of the room.
Lashing out like that was stupid and thoughtless; the man could tell someone about her and as soon as ANBU found out that a certain pink-haired kunoichi was still alive, hunter-nin would be after her again.
Mentally berating herself for making such a foolish mistake, she ran down the stairs and dashed through the door.
It took her two hours to reach the next village.
Sakura sighed in relief as she jumped down from the branch she had been standing on to inspect the perimeter.
The village she was heading to was small and it didn't seem like there were many people there. Exactly the way Sakura liked it.
Walking in a calm, steady pace, she reached the gate of the village minutes later, smiling to the guard on duty as he let her through without even asking for identification.
Pushing her bubblegum strands of hair out of her eyes, she looked around, finding one large street in front of her while numerous, small paths led to the houses near the outskirts of the village.
She sighed before looking back at the main street and that's when she saw it.
A black cape with red clouds.
She blinked, stupefied, but the cape disappeared as soon as she saw it.
It's just my imagination. I've been thinking about Itachi too much.
"Excuse me," Sakura smiled slightly as she stopped an elder lady in her tracks. "Is there an inn here?"
"Yes of course," the woman smiled back. "Only one, but I wouldn't recommend going in there."
Sakura shook her head. "Why not?"
"There are a lot of rogue shinobi who stop by for the night," the woman's smile turned into a look of fear. "It would be wise to stay away from there."
"I don't mind," Sakura responded. "Where can I find this inn?"
The woman's forehead creased momentarily. "It's near the Daimyou's house. You can't miss it. It's the huge, bulky building."
"Thank you," Sakura bowed before turning around.
"Be careful!" the old woman yelled as she watched the pink-haired girl wander away.
"Done for the day," Kisame grinned before sitting down on one of the uncomfortable, wooden chairs.
"I'm done as well," Sasori mimicked Kisame's gesture, lifting his hand to decline the sake that Kisame offered.
"Long mission?" Tobi asked timidly.
Kisame glanced at Tobi before nodding. He still didn't trust the boy.
Tobi enrolled in Akatsuki just after a certain kunoichi left. Apparently, Tobi had been asking Zetsu to enter Akatsuki for a long time and Leader deemed him a good candidate because of his unique spying abilities that only Zetsu could rival.
However, being a part of Akatsuki didn't necessarily mean that every member trusted you right off the bat. Now that Kisame thought of it, there were hardly any members he trusted. Perhaps it was just Itachi and Sasori.
It was justprobably a part of being a missing-nin.
Sometimes though, he would wonder about friendship and occasionally, he wondered about love.
Was it love that made Itachi become even more introverted after Sakura left? Was it love that he even gave his precious Akatsuki ring to the girl even though she gave it back to him? Or was Itachi just losing his mind?
So many questions and Kisame knew that they would never be answered.
After the huge, disastrous last showdown with that darn sanbi and his companion, Akatsuki has successfully accomplished another assassination. Kisame couldn't remember the last time he had seen Deidara smirk so triumphantly, but he was sure that it would never happened again with Sakura gone.
Though, Kisame couldn't be happier. After researching Tooya's background, they had found out that the soul of the Sanbi was split in two. They had given half of it to Tooya and half of it to another Jinchuuriki; one that Akatsuki found years ago.
Unbeknownst to Kisame, he had been walking around with half a bijuu in him. Imagine Kisame's glee when he found out that he would receive even more power when they sealed the second half of the Isonade inside of him.
The downside of it all was that Kisame's looks seemed to change even more. Now, his skin was darker than before and he lost his eyebrows. His eyes were completely black now and Kisame still found himself staring in the mirror, wondering what happened to the man he once was before he became the new Jinchuuriki.
He glanced at the red-head sitting opposite of him.
Sasori hadn't changed a bit. Neither did Deidara for that matter.
It took Kisame a week to find out that Sasori had changed Deidara into a puppet. Apparently, Sasori had slipped a drug into Deidara's food which would hold him in a suspended state in case of a severe attack that killed Deidara. Sasori then proceeded to turn Deidara into a puppet. Something Deidara wasn't too happy with.
When Deidara woke up, his first instinct was to find Sakura and see her, but as he got there, Kisame told him that Sakura left. Furious at Itachi for letting Sakura go without a fight andangered at Sasori for bringing him back to nothing, Deidara went to the Leader and asked permission to change his partner.
Kisame wasn't sure if Deidara had ever forgiven Sasori for turning him into a puppet. He was almost certain that Deidara despised being made of wood.
So Deidara's new partner became Tobi. Kisame and Sasori were paired up together and Itachi would handle everything alone since Leader thought that Sakura could join Itachi's team. After it was made clear that Sakura wouldn't be joining Akatsuki, Leader allowed Itachi to roam around the world by himself until Leader could find a new partner that would fit Itachi.
"How is Itachi doing?" Tobi asked casually, waking Kisame from his reverie.
"Don't know," the shark-man answered roughly while shrugging. "Haven't seen him for months."
"I'm back… yeah," a voice called out.
"Hello," Tobi responded, dipping a finger under his mask to scratch his cheek.
Kisame and Sasori turned their heads to the door that had just opened, revealing Deidara as he grinned half-heartedly. "Yo," he called out while raising his hand.
"Sit down," Sasori gestured to the empty chair as Deidara made his way to the table.
"Want some?" Kisame gestured to the sake.
Deidara glared back. "I'm made of wood Salmon-chan."
Kisame shrugged before refilling his cup, bringing the sake to his lips.
Deidara stared at Kisame, a half envious look in his eyes as he watched the shark-man enjoy the sake. Sasori told him that he wouldn't be able to drink or eat again and that nearly devastated Deidara. To be half alive was one thing, but to be unable to even enjoy the small joys of a good meal was harsh.
Leaning back on his chair, Deidara crossed his arms slightly as he ignored Kisame while he drank. Sasori spotted the angered look in his eyes, but wisely chose not to say anything. Ever since the accident, Deidara refused to have a good conversation with him and to be honest, Sasori doubted if saving Deidara had been the best choice.
Deidara knew that it was for his own, selfish reasons. Sasori just didn't want to lose his partner. Although they bickered a lot, they still had a good connection with each other and Sasori just didn't want to lose that.
Knowing that it was just for Sasori's sake that Deidara was rescued made Deidara even more bitter.
"I'm going out… yeah," Deidara said suddenly before standing up, pushing his chair backwards.
"Sure," Kisame said quietly while Tobi and Sasori just nodded.
"Sure," Deidara echoed softly before turning around abruptly.
"Miss, I'm telling you, there's no more room," the exasperated hotel manager said to Sakura.
"And I'm asking you how it's possible that you have over the fifty rooms here and every single one of them is full?" Sakura shot back while banging her fist on the man's desk. "I'm sure there's still a room available and I'm not leaving until I get the key to that room."
"Miss, please," the man's tone turned pleading. "There are a lot of shinobi in here who will be mad if they're disturbed in any way."
"I suggest that you give me a room so that I can stop biting your head off then," Sakura hissed while leaning over the counter. She hadn't slept properly in a few days, hadn't had a single bite to eat all day long and her legs were too tired to take her any further.
Even if she had to break into one of the rooms, she was not leaving the inn.
"I don't have any rooms left," the young manager snapped back. Obviously, he was at the end of his patience. "There's a village, just two hours away from here. There's bound to be a room free there."
Sakura had enough.
Gathering a small amount of chakra in her hand, Sakura banged her hand on the counter, creating a hole. She smirked as the young man's eyes nearly popped out of its sockets. "Now, will you give me a room?"
"Oh, just stop it and give the girl a room," a deep voice sounded. Sakura turned around to find one of the lower rooms opened. A man with one eye stared directly at her before glaring at the young manager behind the desk who was fidgeting nervously. "I'm trying to sleep here."
"Thank you," Sakura said smugly as she turned around. "Room for one please."
The man quietly muttered something, but Sakura's attention was diverted somewhat as she felt someone staring at her. She didn't feel any change in the man's chakra though, all though it seemed very familiar to her.
Brushing it off as nothing, her attention focused on the matter at hand, which was getting a room.
"Like I told you miss," the coffee-haired guy said. "I do not have any rooms available at the moment. Please go to another inn."
"Now that's a lie if I ever heard one," a very deep voice answered from behind her. Green eyes widened as she realized that she recognized the voice immediately. It had been years since she had last heard it, but its tone was unmistakable.
"There are a few rooms unoccupied next to mine," the man stood so close that she could almost feel his robes around her as he placed one hand on the counter, showing her his golden Akatsuki ring and his perfectly manicured, purple nails.
Sakura still refused to look around, afraid that this might be an illusion, another dream about him. He still plagued her dreams and she would occasionally wake up, bathing in sweat as she checked her hands. They were always clean, but Sakura could never forget the blood that once coated her fingers.
The man behind the counter smiled nervously to the man standing behind her as he turned around, frantically searching for a free room.
As Sakura gained the courage to turn around, the arms of the man standing behind her stopped her as they wrapped themselves around Sakura's arms, crushing her against the man's firm and muscled chest.
Tears filled her eyes as a strand of blond hair hung in front of her eyes while Deidara's chin rested on the top of her head. She didn't know how he survived that deadly blow that Tooya dealt him, but this was real.
He was really here.
Sakura's hand moved upwards, touching the soft fabric of his robes as she clenched it in her hands as if she tried to memorize the texture of it. Then, her hand moved to his.
His hand felt cold in her grasp, but Sakura couldn't express the amount of joy she felt as he squeezed her hand slightly, bringing it up to his lips.
Tears ran freely over her cheek as she felt him press his soft yet firm lips against her hand.
Then, his head moved down until it rested near her ear, his lips so close to her skin that she could almost feel them. And then he whispered the most beautiful words she had heard in four years.
"It's been a while Sakura… yeah," Deidara chuckled softly as he held the trembling girl in his arms. "I thought I'd never see you again, and yet here we are."
A/N: So, I'm back from hiatus. Salvation's first chapter is finished! Nine more to go, yay.
I hope you like it. I'm planning on making Salvation a lot darker than Evolution and Metamorphosis. Also, I'm guessing you noticed the big, big change in Akatsuki. I'm really sorry to have broken up Deidara and Sasori, but all things good sprout from all things bad. Or something like that.
For everybody who forgot: Tooya and Kira are dead. Akatsuki finished them off years ago. The "Isonade" is a creature from Japanese legends. A shark demon with a loyal follower called "Samehada." Sanbi means "Three-tailed," Bijuu are the nine demons and "Jinchuuriki" are the containers for the Bijuu.
See you next time!