So, I'm not allowed on the computer. That's why I'm typing. It's not for you guys. No, just kidding!!!!! I love you all!!!!!!!!! You're so nice to me… My friend and I love Evanescence's Imaginary and Whisper, but somehow we've got two different versions of it… How can that happen…? Anyways, another AU fic, though this gold story (AU – gold, get it? …I'm not funny at all…) doesn't take place in the city. Well, that's where we start…

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. Meh. I wish I did, though…

Kuro-hime (my alter ego's alter ego): And if wishes were horses then beggars would ride…

Me: Shut up. Oh, and by the way. These chapters will be really long (for me), so it might take me longer to update.

Kuro-hime: If you continue to review, I will… ahem… encourage her to write faster.

Me: coughforcecough… I'll feel guilty!

- - -

"Aaah!!!" Itachi blinked at the scene before him. Three men surrounded a young woman with pink hair that gleamed in the moonlight. Normal thing to see in the city? Sure, but the feminine shriek had come not from the girl by from the short man who'd stepped forward aggressively.

"You scream like a woman," the girl laughed, a rich, honeyed sound. Itachi's sharp eyes caught the glint of a needle imbedded in the man's shoulder.

"Why you little – !" A knife flew past him to land, quivering, in the wall behind him. The brick wall. He stepped back, fear visible in his wide eyes.

The girl sighed, slipping her hands into the pockets of her baggy pants. "It's late, gentlemen, and I'd like to sleep tonight. Can't you just let me pass by?"

"No can do," the tallest man said regretfully. "We caught you on our turf, and if the boss finds out that we let you go, we'd be dead."

She shook her head. "Then I'm sorry about this." With that, she flung the knives. They thunked into the men's chests and blood splattered their clothes. The girl wrinkled her nose as she stepped neatly over the bloody bodies.

Itachi followed her silently to a small apartment. It was the full moon and he needed to feed. After all, he was a vampire.

"If you're going to be here, you might as well come in. You're letting in the bugs," her voice cut sharply through his thinking. Slightly surprised at her ability to detect him, he obliged, stepping in through the door and closing it quietly behind him.

She ignored him, throwing her trenchcoat carelessly onto the floor. Itachi slid behind her, placing his pale hands on her shoulders.

"What is your name, little one?" he murmured softly, placing his lips on her neck – approximately above the jugular vein.

She snorted. "Sakura," she replied. "Haruno Sakura." She was smirking, but he couldn't tell why. "And you?"

"Uchiha Itachi." He bit down on her neck – but instead of breaking skin to reach delicious blood as he'd expected, his fangs met cold iron. "What the – "

Sakura's smirk widened and she pulled away, scoffing. "You don't really think I'd leave my neck unprotected so close to the full moon, do you?"

Itachi tugged the cloth choker from her neck to reveal the shining band of metal. "Clever."

"The full moon, when hunger is at its peak," she continued, as if he had not spoken. "As it happens, I don't like your type. Please leave."

"Not until you tell me how you know about us," Itachi purred, sitting on the floor and pulling her down onto his lap.

She shrugged, pulling a small lighter from her pocket and flicking it open. "It's nothing; I've a cousin who tried to feed on me two years ago. He was a wimp, despite his superstrength – I intimidated him into telling me a little." Peering into his face, she added, "That's strange. My cousin always flinched when light got into his eyes at night. What about you?"

Itachi chuckled, sending shivers down Sakura's spine. "You speak as though this was all in the past. Where is your cousin?"

"Oh… I staked him through the heart after he tried to kill me an hour later. What's different about you?"

Again he chuckled. "Persistent girl. I'm from a royal family, so I'm not affected by the light."

She nodded. "I see. Well, now that I've answered your question, get out." Her flat command was accompanied by a slender finger jabbed in the direction of the door as she got up from his lap.

Itachi smirked. "As you wish." Touching a pressure point, he picked up her limp body and disappeared into the night.

- - -

Sakura groaned, sitting up. Black silk sheets fell from her body as she did (A/N: I love silk!!!!), blinking spots from her eyes.

"Where am I?"

A familiar, deep voice spoke from the foot of the bed. "You told me to get out of your room so now we are in mine."

"What the hell!" she demanded angrily. "Why did you do that?" She took in the outfit that Itachi wore and the appearance of Itachi himself. A black cloak with red clouds covered him from mouth to toe. Black, silky hair was neatly tied in a low ponytail at the base of his head. But the most captivating thing about the vampire was the pair of crimson eyes that gazed unblinkingly at her, set into a chiseled face of marble.

He needs to get in the sun more, she told herself, then mentally smacked her forehead. He's a vampire! Get into the sun… Pfft…

"Did your cousin tell you anything about royals, or just about the common types?" he asked. She cocked her head, thinking.

"Well, there was something he started to say…" she mused with a finger to her lips, "but then he kinda lunged at me. So I staked him." She smiled innocently.

"Ah." Itachi sweatdropped at the expression on her face. "Well, every year after a vampire prince comes of age, he must find a mate. Humans don't last for long, so when a prince finds a human to whom he is unusually attached - and willing to spend the rest of eternity with – he has the choice of making her one of us. The same thing happens to our princesses."

Sakura paled. "So I'm here because…"

"You will be my mate for this century. That is correct, Sakura-chan." His hand slid behind her to finger her hand, which held a small dagger. "If you die, I'll just find another girl. You won't kill yourself, will you?"

She scowled and sheathed the dagger. "Fine. If I'm going to die anyway, I might as well postpone some other girl's death. It's not like there's anything else for me to do, and she might actually deserve the life she has."

Itachi raised an eyebrow. "You have an interesting view of life and death, Sakura-chan," he remarked. He had been slightly surprised at her reaction to his threat. After all, most people would think to attack the one threatening them, not to kill themselves.

She shrugged casually, folding the covers to one side and swinging her long legs over the side of the bed. "It's true, though. So what am I supposed to do now? Any more questions?"

"Yes, actually." Itachi studied her face, as if committing it to memory. "Contrary to common belief, only royals can turn mortals into vampires. Was your cousin mate to one of the princesses?"

Sakura shivered. "As if. His mother was my father's sister – or so he said. And who would lie about being related to someone like me? He also told me that mortal-immortal matches are very uncommon, even if said mortal is not particularly willing."

"Are you sure he was related to you?" Itachi inquired, eyes narrowing slightly. If she'd just said what he thought she'd said…

The girl scowled. "I couldn't tell! My mother died giving birth to me, and she's never seen my father, never mind me! How am I supposed to know if we're related?!"
"You're half-vampire?"

"That's what he told me," she nodded. "I don't suppose there's some way to know for sure?"

Itachi thought for a moment before walking to a drawer beside the door, pulling out a small vial. He held it out to her, letting her see the splashing red liquid inside. His thumb flicked the cork out of the mouth of the glass container.

"What is this, Sakura-chan?" She shuddered, having seen enough of it in her life in the dark side of the city.

"Blood from a fatal wound. It smells fresh," she decided. "But anyone who lives in the alleys could tell you that."

Itachi chuckled, recorking the vial of blood and tucking it away. He drew out another vial of black liquid. "Very good. And this?"

Sakura's brows furrowed in thought. I've never seen that stuff in my life, she thought silently, but I recognize the smell…

And the answer presented itself to her at once. "It's blood," she began slowly, sniffing the air. "It's…blood…and it smells… It's vampire blood."

The vampire's smirk widened as he closed the drawer. "Correct. It would seem that you are indeed half-vampire. Only your kind can detect the smell of our blood. Very useful for hunting us, I would imagine."

"Hunting – "

"Indeed. Many half-immortals seek to destroy those who give them the power to do so. Have you heard of the dhampir, the vampire hunters? They are all half-vampire themselves."

Sakura's eyes widened. "Interesting… Is there anything else you want to ask me?"

The dark-haired immortal shook his head. "No. We are required to attend a formal banquet along with the other princes and princesses and their mates later, but until then there's nothing planned."

The pink-haired teen stood. "Can I go back until it's time, then?" He knew she wouldn't try to escape, but shook his head anyway.

"Would you like a tour of the castle?" he offered. "Perhaps we will meet some of the others." Not that he was looking forward to it.

"Okay," Sakura agreed. "Wait – castle?" She raised an eyebrow.

Itachi shrugged, sighing. "Old-fashioned council of elders. They say it makes them feel younger." Sakura giggled.

"I see."
He led her out of his room into a (surprisingly) brightly-lit corridor. "Next door is the bathroom; there's a door from the inside of my room – use that one. The library is that door; don't go in any of those rooms; the weapons room is here; don't go any further or down the stairs without me," he instructed her. She nodded obediently.

"Can we go in the weapons room?" she requested, curious about the weapons that would be in a vampire castle. Itachi pushed the door open and they stepped in – only to find that they were not alone.

"Hey, Uchiha," a brown-haired, white-eyed vampire smirked, curling back his lips to reveal pointed canines. "Introduce us?" The girl with buns in her hair next to him snorted rudely.

Itachi frowned dangerously at the vampire. "Watch it, Hyuuga. Sakura-chan, this is Neji, his mate for the year, his cousin Hinata of the Hyuuga clan, and her mate Naruto. This – " he glanced at a lazy vampire slouching next to his blond-haired mate " – is Nara Shikamaru. Ino is his mate. And, of course, my otouto, Sasuke."

Sakura bowed politely. "Hajimemashite, Neji-san, Hinata-san, Naruto-san, Shikamaru-san, Ino-san, Sasuke-san." Suddenly, she froze. "I-Ino…san?"

"Yes?" The gold-haired vampiress stepped forward, blue eyes widening in recognition. "Sakura… As in, Haruno Sakura? Forehead girl?"

"So that's where you've been!" Sakura exclaimed. "Man, have you grown!"

Shikamaru looked between them uncertainly. "You know each other?" he asked, yawning.

"Hell yeah!" Sakura replied, embracing Ino. "But she disappeared three years ago. Nice to see you again."
Ino gestured behind her emerald-eyed friend. "Let's leave the men to their arguing. I wanna talk to you over there."

Shikamaru yawned again. "Mendokuse…" Ino rolled her eyes, dragging Sakura off.

They chatted for a while, but once Ino started ranting about how lazy Shikamaru was, Sakura stopped her ears (she'd learned to do that very early, after trying to actually listen to Ino for half an hour) and studied a case full of gleaming knives. Absorbed in the intricate design of the blades, she didn't notice as Neji's bun-haired mate threw a knife, which he dodged. The chocolate-haired girl gasped as it flew at Sakura's head.

Without thinking, the green-eyed girl caught the shining blade between two fingers a mere inch from her face. Studying the knife in her hand, she flicked her wrist and sent it back to its owner.

"I like the knife. Perfect balance, simple design." With that, she turned back to the knives in the case.

Ino grinned at her, displaying white, pointed teeth. "I see your skills haven't diminished at all, forehead girl."


Neji's mate had joined them, holding out their hand. "Hajimemashite, Sakura-san. I'm Tenten."

Sakura shook her slender hand, gesturing at a knife on which she'd been concentrating. "Hey, Tenten-san. What do you think of this one?"

Tenten contemplated it, closing one eye and tilting her head. Finally she grinned, turning to Sakura. "Just call me Tenten. The balance is off, certainly, but the design is flawless! If only I could create such beautiful blades." She gazed at a knife that had appeared in her hand.

"Mm… If that vine wasn't so thick, the blade would be perfect," Sakura mumbled as if to herself. Looking at the weapon in Tenten's hand, her eyes lit up. "May I see that?"

Turning the blade over in her hands, she whistled in admiration. "You make this?"

Tenten nodded, pleased. "I've got a shop and everything – or at least, I did." She glared at Neji.

Sakura unsheathed a knife from her wrist. "I'll trade you – this knife ought to fit in your sheath." Tenten looked the offered knife over, surveying it critically.

"Deal. Good steel. Did you make it?"

Sakura laughed. "No; I took it off a guy who challenged me. He didn't deserve to have such a good blade," she answered. Tenten's carefully forged dagger had disappeared into her clothing.

"Hey, sorry about earlier. I didn't mean to try and maim you," Tenten told her.

"Don't worry about it. Heaven knows I stuck my mentor more than enough times when I first learned to handle knives," the pink-haired girl replied cheerfully. "Besides, it would take more than a stray throw to 'maim' me. You'd have to actually try." She shivered. "But I'd rather not be bleeding in a room full of vampires."

Ino chuckled. "Definitely not, forehead girl." Her predatory smile reminded Sakura that her former companion was now undead.

A shadow fell over them; Sakura looked up to see Itachi looming over her. Swallowing, she stammered, "Y-yes, Itachi-san?"
Itachi took her hand in his larger one and pulled her gently towards the door. "Dinner is about to start."

"That reminds me…" Neji turned. "Tenten, come."
"I'm not a dog," the brown-eyed girl hissed in return.


She rolled her eyes, muttering to herself as she walked over to him. "Tenten, wake up. Tenten, come. Tenten, stay. Tenten, hurry up. Do you want me to roll over and play dead, too?"

Sakura giggled, watching over her shoulder as the two glared at each other. Naruto had offered Hinata his arm; she blushed, taking it gratefully. Shikamaru yawned. Again.

As something occurred to her, she looked at Itachi. "Hey, can vampires eat? Besides blood, I mean."
He shrugged, still not letting go of her hand. "Yes, but this is more of a ceremony and feeding you mortals than anything, really."

'You mortals', he says. Aren't we smug?

"And half-mortals," he amended after glancing at her. "Although I suspect you don't need to eat as often as most humans?"

She glowered at him. "Will you stop reminding me, already?!" she snapped. "I ate yesterday, so if I can get a little blood tonight, I should be fine…"

Itachi raised an elegant eyebrow. "And where, pray tell, might you get this blood?" he inquired.

Sakura sighed, pushing back her sleeve to show a thin scar across her wrist. "I'm still half-human," she muttered before letting the fabric slide back down to cover it again. "Useful at times. Especially when I get captured."

She was startled when he clamped a hand over her wrist. "Sakura." His red eyes bored into her green ones as he faced her. "Feeding on yourself is not good for your body. Don't do it again."

Tearing herself away from those endless pools of red he called eyes, she looked at the ground, nodding obediently. Satisfied, he pushed open a set of double doors.

They entered a large room filled with chairs and one long table. Pushing her down into a chair, he sat beside her. Ino plopped down on her other side, dragging Shikamaru with her.

"Hey, forehead girl! Remember Ami, that fool who wouldn't stop following you?" she burbled happily, pointing at said purple-haired fool, who glared across the table. Ino only sneered, flashing her elongated teeth. Ami immediately recoiled, blanching in fear and disgust. "She's Sasuke-kun's mate this time!"

Sakura giggled nervously. After the elders had made their speeches – most of which were meant to bore the hell out of them all (or so it seemed) – the food was served. She smiled gratefully at Itachi when he passed her a particularly rare piece of meat.

Automatically checking for poison, she was surprised to hear Ino's voice. "It's not poisoned, forehead girl." The blonde grinned at her, her bright smile somehow putting Sakura at ease.

Ino… I'll miss you, at least.

Across the table, Neji was trying to force Tenten to eat something, while she pointedly ignored him. Finally, he gave up, settling instead for glaring holes in her head.

Ino laughed, a tinkling, high-pitched, sweet sound unlike Sakura's own moderate, honeyed laughter. "This time of year is always entertaining." Her dancing blue eyes saddened slightly. "You just have to learn not to get too attached to the girls you meet, because only one or two will live," she murmured.

Green eyes scanned the room, examining each new face with calm acceptance.

Who will go? Who will stay among the dead forever?

- - -

Whoo!! I'm finally done typing this chapter, which is undoubtedly the longest first chapter I've ever written!!!!!! So, now it's time for my utterly useless babble… I am working on a sequel to Allegiances, yes to anybody who asked, but I won't start typing it until it's done in my notebook and this story is done. Sorry, but… I can't multitask with typing. Relax, there's only like two or three more chapters left. Heh. So, anybody seen the Naruto movie? We're going to see it once finals are done, in Canada. Stupid finals…