Dark eyes shone in the moon from behind a dark, battered mask. The man's raven hair flew up slightly, and turned sharply east.

"I want her captured alive," he hissed in a harsh whisper. "We need her unharmed."

Several dark shadows dashed across the clearing with barely a sound. Slowly, the group approached a large oak tree, its large woven trunk partially hidden by the dark. The leader of the squad stopped short five meters from the huge oak. With a light flick, his wrist sent a multiple kunai flying at the woven branches. A single kunai flew out from the tree, repelling the opposing kunai as if there were an invisible sphere surrounding the blade. A childish laugh echoed from within the tree.

"Do you want to play with me?" Her small voice had an odd lilting ring to it, as if what she was saying was not of her own will. A light, feminine body jerkily melted from the shadows, her movements somehow managing to be quick. With a quick motion, she drew a pink blade and steadied herself. Her red kimono remained mysteriously wrapped around her, without a wrinkle or scratch to be seen.

"Please be warned- I can play rough!"

Five men suddenly dropped to the ground.

"What's going on?" the leader snapped.

"I'm sorry."

Another man fell. Blood pooled on the ground. The sickening smell thickened in the air.

"I didn't mean to!"

Five more men fell, brutally beheaded. The girl appeared to only have twitched. Bringing the blade up to her mouth, the girl's tongue flicked out to lick the blood off the pink sword. With a satisfactory purr, she pointed the sword at the leader, the last man standing.

"But maybe, if you can, we can play like this again!"

The blade touched his chin and gently pushed off his mask. Uchiha Fugaku stared at the girl, his red eyes seething with hatred.

"Devil's child," He spat. The girl's green eyes flashed a dangerous hue of red-gold.

"No."

The sword was brought down on his head with a sickening thud.

"I am the devil."

--------________--------

In my eye

The world flashed red

Before I knew it

You were dead

--------________--------

"Naruto!" Sakura growled. "Stop eating! You're going to die of indigestion!"

"But Sakura-chan!" The blonde whined. "I'm not like Chouji! Besides, this is ramen… I can eat as much as I want!"

Ayame smiled from behind the counter. "But, Naruto-kun, you will have to pay for the thirty-two bowls you have eaten so far…"

The blonde froze, then slowly turned to Sakura.

"Sakura-chan… Can I…?"

The pink-haired medic sighed, taking out her wallet and slammed down a small wad of cash.

"Yay! Thank you so much Sakura-chan!" He flashed his trademark grin. "See you tomorrow!" With that, he took off before the girl could change her mind. Sakura said her farewell to Ayame, and then set off towards the Hokage's tower. Naruto had been her only teammate for five years, as the graduating class had been uneven. The two had been assigned to Kakashi, a Jounin that had seemed almost unreadable, and then discovered to be an unparalleled pervert [Except for maybe Jiraiya]. After a few years, Naruto had been handed over to Jiraiya for a few years, and Sakura to Tsunade, the current Hokage. Her apple-green eyes glinted fondly as she remembered the year Naruto had come back.

"PERVERT!"

WHAM!

With another chuckle, she entered the building.

--------________--------

"Tsunade-sama!" Shizune burst into the room. "It's happened again!"

The Hokage lowered her cup lazily and looked up with tired amber eyes.

"What's happened again? So many things happen in Konoha it's hard to keep track of."

"It's…" The woman's dark eyes hesitated on the floor for a second before looking up to meet Tsunade's again.

"Have you ever heard of the Devil's Child?"

The sake cup paused halfway to the Hokage's mouth.

"Isn't the Devil's Child a legendary jewel?" Tsunade mused. "It was said that the essence of time and space were imbued into that gem." A pause, and then she added, "But it's just a legend."

"T-Tsunade-sama…" Shizune looked down. "Do you remember how half of the Uchiha clan was massacred?"

Tsunade's lips formed a grim line.

"Wasn't there..." The blonde woman paused, looking down at her desk with a frown. Looking up, here eyes bore a new will to it, as if something had just dawned on her.

"Send Uchiha Sasuke and Uchiha Itachi to my office immediately. There is something we need to discuss."

--------________--------

Sakura hummed contently as she walked up the long, winding halls to her mentor's office. She paused outside the doors for a moment, her hand resting on the wood.

"There is no such thing as the devil."

Her emerald eyes widened at the mention of the word. The voice that had stated so was cold, almost bored. Sakura leaned closer, putting both of her hands on the door, unaware that her chakra was spiking.

"Sasuke, you and Itachi are the only ones that can pull off this mission. You must retrieve the Devil's Child before Sound can. The consequences of what may happen if you fail may involve not just Hidden Leaf, but possibly the destruction of almost all the other hidden shinobi villages. If all of-"

"Don't be so melodramatic, Tsunade-sama." A slightly younger voice cut off the Hokage. "We understand. Of course, we may require a healer." Sakura could almost hear the smirk in his voice. "The one eavesdropping outside will do nicely."

Sakura felt the door begin to open, and quickly backed away. The opening entrance revealed two raven-haired boys, the older one looking smug, the younger one looking bored. A furious Tsunade sat behind them, her eyes hard and stressed.

"Sakura!" The Hokage barked. "I understand that the hospital work has been slow lately, so this mission should do you some good." The rosette flushed and looked down at her feet.

"H-hai, Hokage-sama… B-but…"Her voice was a low mumble, almost impossible to hear. The younger boy turned to face her.

"Annoying."

Twitch.

"WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?"

"Hn."

"In any case, these two probably will need a healer. You are one of the most talented medics in Konoha, and therefore are well-suited for this job. Itachi will brief you on the mission as you are heading out. Now hurry!" Tsunade's amber eyes stared at her.

A wide-eyed Sakura quickly nodded, then left with the two Uchiha trailing behind her. As soon as the doors closed, Tsunade gave a deep sigh, and then rested her head in her arms. The blonde wondered idly if not even the most talented medic in Konoha, the ANBU captain, and the captain's lieutenant could successfully pull this off. But they were the only ones who could.

With another deep sigh, Tsunade decided she needed some sake.

--------________--------

The silence between the three was unbearable. Well, for Sakura anyway. The pinkette silently racked her mind for ways to start a conversation, and came up short. Her first, immediate thoughts were on why her sensei had acted so strangely. It wasn't as if Tsunade had never been stressed before. It was just that the pinkette had never seen the Hokage so… desperate. The taller of the two men turned to face her as they walked through the streets of Konoha and frowned.

"Are you all right, Sakura?" He asked lightly. Sakura's emerald eyes narrowed slightly.

"How… how do you know my name?" She asked quietly. The man smirked.

"Almost everyone does. You are quite famous, even beyond the boundaries of Konoha." Sakura quirked a brow. He came to a stop turned to face her with a light smirk that was barely visible. "My name is Itachi." Sakura looked at him cautiously, and gave a hesitant smile.

"Then I assume that he's Sasuke?" She threw the other boy a look. He glared back.

"Yes," Itachi rolled his eyes at his brother. "Please forgive him for his attitude."

"There's no time for you two to chat," Sasuke snarled. "We have to get going." The boy's pace quickened. Sakura frowned slightly, then followed suite. Itachi quietly trailed after the two. Sakura struggled to catch up to Sasuke then panted out,

"You have to give me the mission details. I have to be involved, too, you know."

"Hn."

Sakura felt another twitch coming on. Fuming, the medic stabbed a finger at the boy.

"What is your PROBLEM?"

"SAAAAKUURAAA-CHAAANNN!!" A large blob of orange hurled itself onto Sakura, bobbing up and down.

"Naruto!" Sakura chided. "That hurt!"

"Sorry," the hyper ninja mumbled. "It's just…" He trailed off, his blue eyes widening as he took in his surroundings. Then, a large grin spread over his face.

"Teme!" The blonde screeched at the top of his lungs.

"Dobe." Sasuke replied.

"Aw, man! Sakura-chan, are you going on a mission with him or something? Hm?" He jabbed a finger towards Sasuke's direction. "That cold-hearted bastard's going to rape you in your sleep, Sakura-chan!"

...

Silence.

"WHAAAATTTTT??"

"Shut up. You're annoying."

"DAMN YOU!"

--------________--------

"For the last time, Naruto, you can't come along!" Sakura frowned. Naruto whimpered, looking up at the rosette with large eyes.

"No."

"Awww damn." Naruto moped. "Why the hell not?"

"This is a special S ranked mission from Lady Tsunade," Itachi said quietly. "Only the three of us are to go."

"That's it! I'll go talk to ol' Baa-chan and get her to let me come with you guys!" The boy gave Sakura a thumbs-up, and then sped off back into Konoha with a loud, "STAY THERE! I'LL BE RIGHT BACK!" Sakura rolled her big, green eyes and turned around.

"Well, let's go."

--------________--------

A dark, irony smell clung in the mist as another man shrieked out in pain. A large sword drew itself out of the flesh, fresh blood spurting out of the incapacitated carcass. (A little too much?)

"Easy, now," A voice echoed from a murky shadow. "Too much will ruin that masterpiece, yeah."

"Shut up," the other man snarled. "Your huge explosions are nothing like art. I don't even know why I'm stuck with you."
"Not my fault you lost your partner, hmm? No need to be so grouchy. Plus, you don't know nothin' bout art, yeah!"

"Eh. Let's just get this stupid thing back to the- wha?" The man turned around, facing the fog-hidden trees. "What's up, leader?"

"Enough of your playtime," a ragged voice hissed. "The opening we have been waiting for has finally started. Kisame, Deidara, Konoha and Oto are on the move."

"With a bang, yeah?" Deidara smirked. "We can take care of them."

"Whatever," Kisame's shark-like teeth bared in excitement. "Let's just get this over with."

--------________--------

"I see…" Sakura murmured, averting her eyes from Itachi's obsidian ones. Though the girl had been on plenty of missions before, this one was enough to spark a feeling of fear. Sakura bit down on her lip, unable to suppress a shudder.

"She's too weak," Sasuke noted, his unfeeling gaze turning towards her. "I don't think she can handle it."

"I am not weak!" Sakura growled, immediately distracted. "Stop doing that!"

"Doing what?" Sasuke smirked, amused. The pink haired girl narrowed her eyes.

"Stop insulting me, you egotistical bastard."

"Feisty, aren't we?" he smirked in response.

"UGH!" Pushing more chakra down to the balls of her feet, Sakura leapt ahead of the two Uchiha brothers. Sasuke rolled his eyes, amused.

"It might be best not to goad her like that." Itachi frowned in a quiet aside. "Though, on the other hand, you seem to be enjoying yourself."

"She's much too fragile and easy to mess with," Sasuke stated, not turning to face his brother. "I'm simply having her get used to it. The girl can't be a pampered princess for the rest of her life." Trees continued to flash by. Sakura eventually slowed, allowing the two to easily catch up.

"Ice bitch," Sakura muttered under her breath. Sasuke glared at her figure, a light snarl registering in the pinkette's ears. Thus after was a long string of insults from the medic nin and easy comebacks from the 'ice bitch.' Neither noticed Itachi pause every now and then, making marks on the branches surrounding them with a chakra-infused kunai.

--------________--------

"Fifty!" A man laughed with a loud voice. Though his cerulean face was intimidating, the smile was childish. "I've gotten fifty people already, Deidara-san!"

"Oh shut up, Kisame." Deidara groaned. "This isn't a contest, mm? Besides, the sound lackeys barely count as ninja. In fact, one person is worth only a tenth of a regular shinobi's life."

"Oh…" Kisame was silent for a moment. Then, "Does that mean I've only gotten five people?" Deidara rolled his eyes, mumbling something under his breath sounding like, 'idiot…'

The said 'idiot' came to a stop in front of the carnage, his eyes narrowing ever so slightly, moving over the trees. The clearing was silent as the two men held their breath. All of a sudden, a voice cried out, "Oh, Kami! What happened here?"

"You moron!" Another voice growled. "You just gave our location away!"

"These people would have been able to sense our chakra," A third mumbled. "They are, after all, the Akatsuki."

"It seems our reputation precedes us," Kisame drawled out, drawing his sword. "And to whom might we owe this great honor to?"

Deidara snorted. "Konoha brats. Figures." A pink haired girl ran out, emerald eyes glowing lividly. Following were two raven haired men, both almost identical in facial expression (there was none, except for maybe Sasuke's bloodlust… violent isn't he?)

"Akatsuki," Sakura breathed, her eyes widening. Kisame blinked. A cocky grin formed on his lips. "Ah, so you've never seen us, have you?"

"No…" The girl murmured, looking down.

"You useless, pathetic girl…" Sasuke sent a glance at her, as if her pink hair said it all. If he weren't supposed to be one of her partners, she would have kicked him in the nuts, right there and then.

"So these are the people we were sent to deal with, yeah?" Deidara's one visible eye scanned the trio, his gaze lingering on The taller Uchiha. "Looks like a pathetic lot."

"They don't look like they could harm a fly, much less find one," Kisame cocked his head, curious. "Is Konoha really running out of proper shinobi?"

Sakura's wide eyes narrowed. Sasuke snorted at her reaction and shifted his stance, prepared for any attack. Itachi remained behind the two, doing nothing. His eyes betrayed no emotion as Sakura charged forward. Kisame laughed cruelly, raising his Samehada to block Sakura's two kunai. The roseate growled, trying to push Kisame back, but to no avail. The two shifted in their attempts to push the other back, sliding across the wet grass of the meadow. Kisame noted this with an odd, misplaced glee and shoved away from Sakura. The said girl frowned in confusion and slowly backed away.

"As much as I would love to play with you little brats, I have some work to be doing." Kisame sheathed Samehada and took out a small, curved, jagged shuriken wrapped in red cloth. Symbols were engraved in the metal, and almost seemed to be glowing with chakra. With a sigh, he threw it at Sakura. The girl leapt to the right, dodging the shuriken, but did nothing to deflect it. The weapon went on, headed straight for Itachi. The man simply side-stepped, but it appeared to not be enough. Sakura landed on her knees, her eyes open in shock as she stared at the flying projectile. The shuriken barely scraped Itachi's cheek and imbedded itself in the tree behind them. Itachi's onyx eyes were wide as a small drop of blood fell onto his ANBU uniform. Sasuke simply stared. Kisame snorted.

"Is this the best Konoha's brats can do? Even their ANBU have slow reflexes, yeah." Sakura whirled around, eyes huge as she took in the blonde Akatsuki standing right behind her. The man grabbed her by her hair and delivered a sharp slap to her cheek. The girl bit her lip, holding in a whimper, and whirled around to deliver a punch to Deidara. He dodged, leaping over her, but as he was still holding onto her hair, Sakura found herself on the ground with a mouth filled with dirt. Deidara leaned over the now whimpering girl and rubbed her back soothingly.

"It's okay, mmm. Just make sure to train hard enough so that you won't be a weak, pathetic little girl anymore, mmkay?" He kicked her body to the side, and began walking away. Kisame rolled his eyes, pouting slightly from the lack of fun, and went to retrieve the shuriken. The two's movements were so fast, they were gone in a single second, leaving a crumpled Sakura, a stunned Sasuke, and an emotionless Itachi. Sakura immediately cursed at herself for being so stupid and shakily stood up. Sasuke's gaze hardened and he glared at her mercilessly. Itachi was the first of the group to start up again, his perfectly arranged face the same as before. Sasuke growled and started walking after him. Sakura pressed a hand to her stomach and began healing only a little of the wound. She would have to preserve her chakra for the two Uchiha, who would undoubtedly be the main fighters if it came to a fight.

They traveled in silence for a while, and when it got dark, Itachi led them to a cave where they would be taking shelter for the night. Sakura wordlessly went to collect firewood, sensing the tense atmosphere that showed they did not want her there. As soon as she was out of earshot, Sasuke stood up.

"How could you be so stupid? That was a single shuriken, you saw it very clearly, yet you did not manage to dodge it?"

"I am touched that you worry about me, brother," Itachi said dryly. "However, what happens to me is none of your business."

Sasuke sneered. "I don't understand how you could have gotten your position. I deserve it much more than you." As he continued to rant, Itachi's eyes did not leave the fire.

"Are you jealous of me, brother? Are you afraid that my power will overshadow you?" He turned slightly. "Are you afraid one day, I might kill you?"

Sasuke had returned to his calm demeanor, but his eyes remained cold. "Brother, it is more likely for you to die at my hands than for I to die at yours."

"Wishful thinking will get you nowhere," The side of Itachi's mouth turned up in a small smile. "But if it keeps you happy, dream on, foolish brother."

Sasuke was about to retort, but Sakura re-entered the small shelter, carrying small bundles of wood in her arms. After the fire was lit, they ate in silence. None of them seemed to notice the pair of eyes watching them.

--------________--------

"Sakura, before I begin, I hope you realize that the chance of you dying on a mission like this is extremely high."

Sakura shot him an exasperated look. "Of course. Dying is a natural part of being a shinobi."

"You do not understand. The main reason you are likely to die is because of your bloodline." Itachi said patiently. Sakura snorted.

"Are all Uchiha this stuck up? Just because I don't have the Sharingan doesn't mean I can't fend for myself."

"Sakura, listen. We were originally going to come without a healer, despite the danger that is likely to come. This mission was supposed to be an Uchiha only, specifically because of our heritage. What we are looking for came from the Uchiha clan, and protecting it is dangers only the Sharingan can overcome." Itachi looked at her pointedly. "I cannot guarantee that you will come back from this mission alive. You were not brought along as a necessity, but as a convenience."

"Like I said, I don't mind. Death is expected on dangerous missions." Though Sakura's posture was proud, neither she nor Itachi missed the shake in her voice.

"Tch. Annoying."

--------________--------

The crimson stained

my heart impure

The clash of souls

The soft demure

If only we knew of the dangers we face

If only we found the end of the race

Moving forward

Never looking back

--------_________--------

A/N: Just a little note… this is the (second) most confusing story I've ever written… so don't ask questions about the plot because you'll probably find the answer in due time. Also, I'm trying a different sort of writing style, so this will suck even more than my usual stories.