Tsukino

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Scroll III: Capture

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The excitement and loud voices receded as Sakura made her way unsteadily home, taking unmeasured steps and watching the cracked and tiled sidewalk flash along her vision. The hurt at Naruto's comment was fading, the burning behind her eyes vanished as she blinked – she knew his words were truthful and more oft than not, straightforward, but he was caring about her in his own obnoxious way, and for that she was grateful.

The sake in her system was making the night swim in her vision; the moon looked as if it were in a pond instead of the sky. Sakura narrowed her eyes at periodic streetlamps situated at the sides of the road. Everything seemed so bright with the alcohol – it hurt her eyes and truth be told, Sakura had never enjoyed the headaches that came with the hangovers the next morning.

She concentrated chakra into her hands, and placed it on her abdomen – jade colored energy flared slightly and dimmed as it entered her system, cleansing her blood of the traces of alcohol and leaving Sakura feeling quite refreshed in the middle of the night. The drowsiness vanished and Sakura smiled a little at her restoration of control.

Things were looking better already, and it had only taken some sake and, to stop the oncoming hangover, a tiny portion of her chakra to polish off most of the alcohol.

But the dripping emptiness slowly burrowing into her heart did not let up as she continued her resolute trek home.

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The smell of fresh blood was potent in the air.

A dark figure stepped silently aside the fallen body and calmly made his way down the hall; the hallway was dark and the air was dusty from unused. A glimmer in the moonlight highlighted the golden plate drilled onto the stone wall, the embossed words scarcely glinting in the night.

Restricted.

The man disregarded the sign and continued his trail; despite the malicious killing intent rolling off his body in thick waves, he seemed unruffled in the way he gracefully made his way towards the end of the hall. His crimson eyes slid coolly down the magnificent double doors spreading out before him, and he stopped a few feet before the huge entrance that marked the end of his trip. The kanji written across the oak in black was ancient and already starting to chip off, but the man showed no hesitance as he placed his palm onto a strange tidal-pool marking splashed across the wood. The red sign glowered eerily in the dark, and with a silent hiss the double doors slid open, leading the way into a spacious room. Dust collected from the years of neglect drifted to the floor from the sealed door and the pale moonlight silhouetted the silent man, casting his shadow into the vast room in front of him.

The sight was unimaginable.

Scrolls stacked every available surface in an organized scatter. Huge ivory vases randomly littered the floor and inside were large scrolls with complicated script written in old languages that were faded into a dull gray. Shelves lined the walls like massive giants towering over the desks heaped with old books used, apparently, to decipher the words scribbled hastily on the various scrolls that filled up the room. Scrolls in every size imaginable filled the shelves to the brim; they smelled of some unknown power used to preserve the yellowing paper. Intricately carved oak chairs surrounded the large tables and the sight looked more like a conference room than a scroll chamber. The knowledgeable air gave the enormous room a magnificent atmosphere; it was well over eight times the size of the Hokage's office.

The man stepped steadily into the room, not bothering to silent his footfalls as he drifted towards a shelf marked by a large red dot on the ceiling above it. The shelf was covered from top to bottom with blood splattered scrolls – the bottommost were already a few decades into themselves, while the topmost scrolls were still relatively young. The paper had yellowed over the years, and many looked dangerously close to disintegrating upon touch. They had only been kept within the Uchiha compound for a little over a year before they had been found and taken to this room, preserved and constantly protected from any possible danger that they could possibly get into. There was a crimson colored scroll at the very bottom of the 

stack, and the man held out his hand as if to touch the paper – the image shriveled at his touch and the genjutsu fell. The crimson scroll was nowhere to be found. The man shifted, flickered quickly through a sequence of hand signs, and placed his index finger onto the Uchiha fan engraved into the wood. The groaning of the old drawer at the bottom-left corner took the man's attention; he knelt and leaned down to grasp the object hidden in the dark. Inside was a beautifully carved box, and within the box a delicately placed scroll. The scroll looked like it had been drenched in crimson ink before it had been stored within the onyx box, and the man took the scroll, slipping it into his black cloak. He threw the onyx box into a corner, where it collided into a pile of scrolls and sent them tumbling down into a mess of old paper and ink. He took no notice of the mess. He had accomplished his mission, and it was time to go.

Uchiha Itachi turned and walked down the blood splattered hallway, over the dead bodies littering the stone floor. Then he turned away from the Hokage Tower upon reaching the outside air and disappeared into the night.

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Sakura's hair was still wet from her shower when she dropped herself onto her bed and molded herself into her soft comforter. She sighed wearily and opened her emerald eyes to gaze at the ceiling. She still hadn't figured out what she wanted – a new direction in her life, perhaps; the feeling of unrest at the thought of life forever confounded to the hospital and occasional missions made her restless. She needed something else, or maybe it was adventure, which she was true she lacked. She laughed wryly, and glanced mockingly into the picture frame at her bedside. It was the picture taken when they were twelve, when she had believed that nothing could destroy her team-family.

She was wrong, of course, with Sasuke's defection, but that was alright now. She frowned when she considered her situation. Maybe she would suffer from a touch of boredom, here and there, but she could manage her lifestyle as it is. Sakura lifted her hand to touch the grimacing faces of the twelve year old Naruto and Sasuke, and she smiled. She would never be able to deal with losing them again.

Flopping back onto her queen sized bed and snuggling into her pink duvet, Sakura smiled and closed her eyes. A huge yawn escaped her mouth and she stretched. "I'll think about tomorrow when it comes…" she muttered, and relaxed.

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A few minutes into her sleep, she tensed and her eyes snapped open. She listened in 

silence to the quiet cries of the child downstairs and the lazy meowing of the cats outside.

Someone was out there.

Then a malicious chakra spiked – it felt like death slowly crawling over her skin or sluggishly drowning in thick water. In a flicker Sakura flipped over into a crouch onto her bed, wary eyes scanning her room for movement. Her eyes hadn't adjusted to the dark yet and she was literally stranded on her ears – she listened hard to any sound of movement but there was none.

Then there it was again, slowly rolling around her, causing her to suffocate in its heavy bloodlust.

Sakura lost her breath for a moment before she jerked off her bed just as her headboard exploded into thousands of splinters – a gigantic blue sword that looked like a shark's back rubbed the wrong way was imbedded into the mess that used to be her bed.

"Well, kunoichi, quite a quickie aren't cha?" the hand attached to the sword growled, and Sakura snapped her gaze to the two men standing at the edge of her – albeit ruined – bed. The tall, burly one, who was also the one who wrecked her bed, looked like he had just bitten into a particularly sweet apple; his face was extremely smug and he looked as if he would eat her alive – if he got the chance, that is, Sakura reminded herself.

"Who are you?" Sakura growled, and the man just smirked as he brought down his sword to deliver another blow. This time Sakura jumped out of the way and her desk was victim to the grotesque man's nasty table-splintering blow. She laced chakra into her hand and twisted around when she landed on her feet behind the man to deliver a heavy punch in his gut, but the man swirled around – 'quite agilely,' Sakura noted – and gracefully blocked her bone-shattering punch with his sword. Her chakra was suddenly emptying at an alarming rate and Sakura quickly retreated to the window to reassess the situation.

So the sword took chakra, and despite the large man's swift attacks, Sakura could tell that he was not using even a fraction of his true abilities – he was grinning, for goodness sake, and Sakura clenched her teeth in his ease. She'd show him pain.

Pushing chakra into her feet she disappeared into space and reappeared before the large man; before he could react, her foot was in his gut in a round-house kick, and he crashed through the opposite wall, leaving a large gaping hold and a pile of rubble at his departure. Now she could clearly see the other lean man. Part of his long, blonde hair was tied into a ponytail high up the back of his head, and his bangs slid like a shower over his right eye. She couldn't discern his eye color in the dark, but they were light, and most of all, they were interested. Yet he didn't do anything as he watched her from across her bedroom. It seemed almost as if he making himself stand there – his fingers twitched sporadically, itching to have some action.

"Gonna answer me now?" Sakura growled as the large man lumbered gracefully back into the room, rubbing his sore back. "Che, wild banshees. I wonder how Itachi deals with these women here." He muttered, and Sakura watched with quite a bit of morbid happiness at the way he grimaced when he held up his hand to his face and put his bleeding nose back into position. It made a satisfying 'crack' and the blood flowed freely onto his black cloak.

Then Sakura realized their choice of clothing.

Now that she was facing the two men and her eyes were finally adjusting, she saw, to her blatant horror, a very significant sign that she – unbelievably – missed when she had first seen them in her room.

The red clouds on their cloaks.

Sakura's mind flashed past all her possible routes of escape. She could call help, but that was not likely, for they had to be strong to be in the Akatsuki. Perhaps there were shinobi somewhere near her apartment, but finding a ninja without jeopardizing the civilians was hard enough in itself, and now that there were two Akatsuki instead of one-

"Kisame, if you're not going to take care of her, then let me, yeah. You said you were going to pay her back for the Kyuubi and Itachi's little brother." The blonde stated. Kisame was starting to grin that demented grin of his again, showing his two rows of shiny, sharp teeth, "Yeah, I'm going to. A little patience is appreciated, Deidara."

"Che."

The sharp teeth – Sakura's eyes widened. Now that she could clearly see them under the moonlight, the features of the half-shark man seemed to stand out and draw attention to the similarities between the shark man and the large, burly man from the market. The sharp teeth, the beady eyes; the only difference was the skin color. 'Well, you can't go around flaunting that weird skin and not get caught, can you?' She thought wryly. Quickly thinking through her options, Sakura jumped backwards, right out the window. The best way would to bring the fight outside, so that their little commotion would not hurt any of the villagers that lived in the same apartment as her. Channeling chakra into her feet, she ran vertically up the side of the building until she reached the top, and she felt more than saw 'Kisame' follow her up. Sakura was instantly alert – where was the other man, the guy with the exploding birds, if Sakura recalled correctly from her memory. He was the guy that she had seen sitting on Gaara the time they had gone to rescue him. The puppeteer – Sasori's - partner.

"We've come to get you, banshee," Kisame grinned, "and you're coming whether you want to or not." His hands went quickly through the signs of a familiar water jutsu. Sakura readied herself for the attack and sure enough, it came.

Kisame flew towards her at a speed that a person his size should definitely not have, and he drew the large shark-sword at his side, swinging it in a great arc towards Sakura. Sakura jumped back and watched the grinning man with narrowed eyes. She could easily tell that if he ever grazed her with that sword, skin would be broken upon contact; a few strands of pink hair drifted to the cement. Sakura didn't wait for him to recover from the momentum, and she threw her fist towards his skull. He ducked and jumped backwards, hands flowing through an advanced water jutsu this time. Twin dragons, both made of water, flew towards her and aimed for her head and feet. Sakura countered his jutsu with her hands flashing through an earth jutsu, and huge chunks of cement grew from the ground to assemble a shield in front of her. The dragons crashed into the wall and Sakura sprinted towards the side, throwing two kunai towards Kisame.

Kisame seemed to find this funny, and easily sidestepped the two flying projectiles. They stuck to the cement behind him and he belatedly saw the twin glinting wires attached to the kunai. His eyes traced the wire back to the petite kunoichi and his eyes widened when her hands flashed through the Uchiha's infamous fire jutsu, "Katon no jutsu!" Fire flew down the wires and imbedded Kisame in flames; a satisfied grin appeared on Sakura's face before it fell just as quickly at the mist that suddenly formed where the shark-man was standing. When the fire was gone, Sakura saw that he had used a water-clone – the jutsu that he had first used, Sakura suddenly realized – to take most of the damage. But she was still smug to see him quite disoriented and very, very charred.

He bore his teeth at her disdainfully and raced towards her once again, this time on the offensive. His blows were hard, and Sakura searched quickly for an opening between his quick attacks. The opportunity presented herself during one of Kisame's wild swings. She brought up her knee and it hit his shin while Kisame was still riding with the momentum brought by his heavy sword. He winced and Sakura took his sudden halt of attack to her advantage – she drew more chakra into her hands and touched the bones of Kisame's wrist. With a sickening crack, the bones were broken, and Samehada dropped heavily to the floor. Before Kisame could react, Sakura aimed deliberately for his face. She could feel the smug victory fill her senses. This was going to break his skull-

Suddenly Sakura couldn't feel her feet, and the numbness spread up her body until it reached her clenched fist. She gasped and fought against it, trying to stop the poison from spreading further into her system by slowing her heartbeat with her chakra. The numbness made her dizzy; then she saw the floor quickly approaching her eyes and everything was black.

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"Kisame, you seriously, seriously suck." Deidara 'tsked' at the charred and grumpy Kisame, who was nursing his hurt wrist with a dangerous pout, "That damn women broke my wrist!"

Deidara scoffed, "And I'm grateful of her for that, or I woulda have done it myself," he stared triumphantly at the irritated shark-man, "and you told me not to help. You brought it on yourself, yeah!" But it did take a lot to hurt Kisame, he would admit; it was true that Kisame had underestimated her and that was extremely stupid of him, but such a petite girl getting so close to defeating him… He bent down to inspect the fallen kunoichi with curious eyes. She looked like she was sleeping, with only a minimum amount of scratches present on her body. She looked perfectly fine to Deidara, actually. He smirked. So Kisame was getting the worst end out of the fight, huh?

"She was going to beat your face him if I hadn't saved you, yeah," Deidara smirked delightedly, "We're going to have to thank Sasori-danna later for this poison." He threw the needle onto the cement and threw a tiny clay bird from the mouth on his hand. The bird reached a good 5 meters into the air before falling and flapping to life in midair. It landed on the building with a large crash, and Deidara loaded Sakura onto the back of the bird, binding her hands behind her back. Then he nudged Kisame, who was still sulking over his broken wrist, "Let's go, Kisame. Itachi's gonna be pissed."

Kisame was still grumbling but he managed to twitch slightly at the image of an angered Itachi; grudgingly he picked up his Samehada with his left hand and put it on his back. Cradling his damaged hand carefully, he leapt from the roof and towards the gates, and Deidara followed, beckoning the giant bird with a small flick of his wrist.

They had done their job, and Deidara hoped that perhaps when they got back to the base he would at least get to have some fun with the unconscious kunoichi.

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A/N: Not that kind of fun, people. And yeah, there goes Itachi! :D He finally has a show in the plot. Please review! Constructed criticism appreciated! Quick note: I'M LOOKING FOR A BETA that will hopefully enjoy reading my story. :D It would be quite unfair to force this troublesome job on an unwilling victim, wouldn't it?