A/N.: Hey everybody! I have more action and adventure coming up for you, so keep your eyes peeled! Has anyone guessed who the intruder is from last chapter? If so, good for you, lols. It was pretty easy to guess, you know.

Hinata is OC, but she has been with Sabaku Kankuro for a whole week, what do you expect?

THIS CHAPTER WILL BE LONG. or it might not be. i might put it into two. you never know.

You know what would be nice? If I got at least five or more reviews for this chappy! ...i'm evil aren't I? But still you can't say i'm being inconsiderate because I've written at least 600+ reviews for others since I've started fanfiction! no joke! honest to God.

Chapter 10: Crows in the Forest

"You." Kakashi hissed under his breath.

Sakura was lying on the bed, still as death. Uchiha Itachi lowered his hood and faced Kakashi. "Still as sharp as a kunai, I see, Kakashi. If you would've put two and two together, maybe you'd realize that there were an unnatural amount of crows this week."

"What are you doing here?" The copy-ninja raised his hitae-ate, which revealed three spinning tomoe. Sakura stirred lightly, but continued sleeping.

"I'm merely testing your female team member's abilities," Itachi drawled out. "Is that a crime?"

"Yes!" Kakashi was thunderstruck. "Why would Akatsuki need Sakura?"

"Easy," Itachi replied. He moved away from the bed. "One, she has the best chakra control in the world. I think you've realized by now she's even better at it than Rin was," he smirked when Kakashi tensed slightly.

"Two, she has access to Uzumaki Naruto, the jinchûriki I'm supposed to eliminate…"

Kakashi fumbled with the weapons pack behind him surreptitiously.

"And three, she has hate." This caught Kakashi off-guard.

"Hate? Sakura's the sweetest perso-"

"Apparently she was able to fool you," Itachi pressed on smoothly. He returned back to the bed and looked coldly at the sleeping girl. "She has amazing acting abilities."

"Think, Kakashi," Itachi continued, "think of the reason she's in the hospital right now. It isn't because of innocent sparring, is it?"

"So you're behind all of this," Kakashi sneered, "why would Sakura learn to trust you? She trusts us a hundred times more-"

"D'you know why Sakura trusts me more? For the same reason Sasuke was thinking of going to Orochimaru. It's the same reason Akatsuki was created." He paused, and took one last glance at the sleeping Sakura.

In the end, it's all about power, Kakashi."

Itachi did a flurry of hand seals. Kakashi watched, horrified, as Itachi stretched out his left hand. It had a blackish red triangular seal on it. The Uchiha took away the covers and pressed his palm to Sakura's ankles.

Kakashi had seen this before. "No!" He sped faster than the speed of lightning, and created a barrier between Sakura and Itachi.

"Nice, Kakashi," Itachi admitted, "but it's too late."

"Kuso!" Kakashi said, angry beyond belief. He was starting to feel drowsy. Everything around him seemed to be spinning.

"So ends the legacy of the copy-cat nin, the Hatake who tried to become Uchiha," said Itachi's distant voice. "I've already trapped you in my genjutsu. I can easily stab you right now." The blurred outline of the Akatsuki was slowly getting bigger. Kakashi could feel something penetrating his arm, but the pain was dulled.

Is this dying? Kakashi couldn't tell. From what he heard from Anko, she said death was like meeting up with some of your dead colleagues. Would he see Minato-sensei? Would Obito and Rin forgive the selfishness of his youth?

Someone's head brushed against his ear. His brain started resonating lightly, as Itachi spoke. "You will pretend nothing has happened. You will go through a normal life. Once Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura are on their own, you will take S-class missions again, as many as you can get. And when any of your teammates need you the most, you will shun them, just like you shunned Obito and Rin."

...Just like you shunned Obito and Rin, just like you shunned Obito and Rin, just like you shunned Obito and Rin.... Flashes of the past seeped through Kakashi's skull as his mind replayed the events of that fateful day in his youth.

Itachi smirked. Konoha's most famous ninja was convulsing at his feet. Even though the Uchiha was using a new genjutsu, he was certain that it would work. He wasn't a genius for nothing.

He looked at the sleeping figure on the bed. Was it necessary to use her? She was as weak as a feather. Surely no one would have any use for her.

But there was potential hidden within that abnormally large forehead of hers. It was clear to Akatsuki.

The ex-black ops agent jumped out the window, running from rooftop to rooftop. Soon the day would come, and he would finally be able to complete his mission.

But for now, Itachi thought triumphantly, they can just rely on Hatake Kakashi, although I don't think he'll be of much help...

The stoic Uchiha prodigy had the sudden urge to laugh at that moment.

Who said the life of a criminal was bittersweet?

***

"Wake up sleepyhead! Rise and shine!" Kankuro said in a sing-song voice, clanging a big pot over his head. Hinata groaned and got up, sleepily. She did a double-take when she saw what time it was.

"Kankuro it's 4:30!"

"Exactly," Hinata sorely wanted to wipe Kankuro's smirking grin off of his face. "What? Don't you wanna train?"

"Yes," Hinata grumbled, "but it's a Sunday!"

Kankuro sniggered. "Do you think I sleep in on Sundays? Sunday's training day!"

Hinata frowned and got up from her bed. She looked at her calendar and her eyes got wide. "I've been here for a whole week!"

"Way to change subject, Hinata."

"Sorry," Hinata said sheepishly, putting a lock of hair behind her ears. "So what're we going to do today?"

"We are going to start on the very essence of puppeteering," Kankuro smiled, "chakra strings!"

That woke Hinata up. She zoomed around the room, picking up random pieces of clothing and putting them in the crook of her arm. "Wait one minute, I'll be back!" she shouted, disappearing into the washroom.

Kankuro waited, sitting on the side of her bed. He grinned; it was fun teaching someone for a change, instead of being on the recieving end of one of Temari or Gaara's lectures. Hinata was a nice person, willing to learn. It was only her shyness and inability to have confidence in herself that weighed her skills down. In reality, she had the ability to become a far greater ninja than even she knew.

He knew that within two hours, Hyuuga Hinata would master chakra strings. He sighed. Now he knew how Baki-sensei felt like whenever he teached. Kankuro felt as though he did the world some good for once.

Lying down on the bed, Kankuro smiled. Maybe he'd ask Gaara if he could teach a team of genin. After all, he was a jonin and he could take a team under his wing any day of the week. It was just that he would never forgive himself if something went wrong to the kids.

But this was a world of ninja and it would only be a matter of time before something wrong would happen. There were nukenins everywhere, hostile nations were constantly erupting into warfare and the Akatsuki were on the move. In fact Gaara was more angsty than usual. But Kankuro couldn't blame him. The fateful letter Tsunade had given to them was only the tip of the iceberg of Gaara's problems.

What was the Hyuuga lord thinking, putting Hinata through an arranged marriage? It was clear Hinata didn't know her father was going through it, because she wasn't fainting whenever Gaara strode by or crying during breaks in their training. Kankuro was sure that her stay in Sunagakure was one of the best moments of her life. She was happy here, happy to learn and happy just to train.

How would they drop the bombshell? Temari had suggested to gradually make Hinata and Gaara get closer to one another, but that was proving to be as easy as forcing Hinata to beat up Naruto. Gaara kept on saying that Lord Hiashi should've put the contract with Kankuro, because he and Hinata were always together, no matter what time of the day. But Kankuro only thought of Hinata as another sister, a less violent and temperamental one at that. Sadly he had voiced that aloud when Temari was in the room, and the remark earned him a knuckle sandwich. In the mouth.

"I'm back! Let's get going!" Hinata exclaimed, rushing out of the bathroom, fully dressed for action. "Where are we going, anyways?"

"You're hyper today, Hinata," Kankuro grinned. Hinata was definitely happy these past few days. "We'll be training in the desert."

"The desert?" Judging from Hinata's shocked face, Kankuro knew he had sobered her up.

"Yes, the desert. It's not just all sand, Hinata," Kankuro said sternly, "there's animals and plant life out there too."

"I know, but it'll be really hot out there in the afternoon, won't it?" Hinata tilted her head in confusion.

Kankuro turned towards the door. "I think you'll be able to master this before 9 o'clock." He smiled, opening the door.

Hinata gasped in shock and picked up her weapons pack. Surely Kankuro-san's kidding...

***

"Kazekage-sama, it would be more prudent to show an outwards alliance with Yukigakure. They have, after all, the best civilian technology-"

"Silence!" Gaara stared up and down the round table. "An alliance with Snow would only spark confusion among the shinobi!"

"But Kazekage-sama-"

Gaara caught the offending council member with a dark glare.

Temari quickly picked up the pace. "Should we move on?" she asked anxiously, sending a pleading look towards Gaara. He merely nodded curtly.

"The next thing on the agenda is our alliance with Konoha," read Kiyuki Junko, the council secretary. "It has been secured with help from the Hyuuga clan, and-"

"Junko-san, please refrain from giving the details." Gaara said in steely voice, not looking at the secretary.

"Kazekage-sama, as head of Suna you are required to not exclude any-"

When Gaara spoke, it was in anger. He was still not looking at Junko. "I know fully well what the law dictates. I have not yet acted upon this unusual request, and to tell the council now would be a pointless waste of time." he said it all with a clenched jaw.

"Well, you've piqued the council's interest now, Kazekage-sama," another man beside Temari spoke; it was Sanada Shingen. He leered at Gaara, who was looking straight ahead of him yet again. "What exactly is in that official letter?"

"Shingen-sama, I think it's best that we move on-" Temari said nervously, sparing a glance at Gaara. He was never this mad at a council meeting. "About our ties with Amegakure, Junko?" Temari gave the small woman a dangerous look.

"Ah....Ah yes. There have been many reports-"

"I know what you're trying to do here, Gaara-sama," Shingen said evilly; he didn't address Gaara as Kazekage. Several council members were shocked. "You're trying to divert our attention from what's in the letter, aren't you?"

"Sanada-sama! Do not interrupt the meeting!" one old council member said disapprovingly.

He ignored him. "There must be something in that letter that you don't want any of us to know..."

"...are you plotting with the Hokage behind our backs?"

There were several murmurs throughout the room. Temari slammed her hand on the table; there was a small crack. She turned to Shingen.

"Are you accusing the Kazekage of treason?" she said incredulously.

The room erupted into screams of outrage.

"-Treason? This will not sit well with this generation! They love the Godaime Kazekage!-"

"-Just what are you implying, Sanada Shingen?-"

"-This has got to be the most exciting council meeting ever!" Everyone turned to look at whoever had said that. It was one of the new members. He looked around nervously. "Well, I think it's exciting..."

Temari sniggered. Trust the newcomers to ruin the underlying tension in everything. "Can we just move on?"

Gaara was still looking straight ahead, his face carved of stone.

"Ahem," the secretary coughed anxiously, looking at her documents. "There have been many reports of a suspicious attack in-" her voiced died away, as Gaara suddenly stood up. He started to walk around the table.

"If I tell all of you," Gaara began, "and if I hear, or see, or find out that you have either been gossiping or helping me achieve it in any way, the sentence will be death." Everyone was silent. Temari saw Shingen out of her peripheral vision. He was smiling evilly.

He stopped pacing. "The reason I have been given this letter is that the clan lord Hyuuga Hiashi has offered to strengthen our ties to Konohagakure in a most peculiar way." His voice was ice-cold.

"I am to wed Hyuuga Hinata before the end of this year, in order to assure Sands' ties with Fire Country are secure."

***

"Okay, Hinata," Kankuro said. It was five o'clock and the climate was very cool, thankfully. "I'm going to bring out one of my training puppets. Let's see how well you catch on."

Kankuro took out of his sack an old puppet named Falcon. It was very small, the size of a six-year old child. He handed it to Hinata, who took it gingerly and inspected it. "I make all my puppets by myself. Nobody knows this, but I learned the art of puppetry by myself. My Father never had time to teach me, nor any of my siblings."

The library in Sand isn't very big, but it had all the necessary books on puppetry for me. It just appealed to me in ways I didn't even understood back then. But now I know that I liked puppetry not because it was a very distinct fighting skill, but because I knew it was for me."

Hinata nodded and sat down in the sand. Kankuro followed suit.

He continued to talk. "Puppetry is a very complex skill, but once you get the hang of it, it never leaves you. You will always have it for life. Also, it gives us a split-second advantage over others. Ninjas underestimate the power of a puppet master. Remember this clearly, Hinata. It will help you get a step ahead of your opponent."

Once you get back to Konoha, don't show anyone your new jutsu. No one in Konoha is a puppet master and they will most likely scorn you or fear you. There might be some books on it in the library there, but don't count on it. I'll put some of my books in your bags, just in case."

Now, there are three steps in puppetry. But before I explain them to you, I'll give you the reason we did all the sparring yesterday. Tell me, are you awake?"

The pale-eyed girl inspected herself closely. She did feel fresh and slightly relaxed. Awake was putting it mildly.

She nodded. Kankuro smiled. "I did this in order for you to have a clear mind for what I'm about to teach you today. This lesson will determine whether or not you're up to the task of being a puppet master." Hinata gulped nervously.

Kankuro ignored it and continued to talk. "As I said before, there are three steps in puppetry. Step One is how to make one. It's an easy step and anyone can master making one."

Step Two is a bit harder. You will have to concentrate your chakra into threads and use them to control the puppet you have created. Most people who can't control their chakra can never master puppetry. This step will be easy for you, Hinata."

Step Three is the hardest part of them all. For this, you'll have to learn some medical jutsu. This won't be a problem, because Tsunade's in Konoha, and I'm sure she'll be able to help you. Just don't show her your real intentions and you'll be fine. There are three parts to Step Three: Medical jutsu, and knowledge of poisons. This is a turn off to most, because many ninjas believe poison is an underhanded trick to use in a real fight. The next part is the sealing of your puppet."

I haven't mastered Step Three yet. Step Three will be a mission only for you. Think about it that way, so you don't get distracted by frivolous things."

Hinata never looked so serious in all her life. She knew she was this close to becoming a puppet master. "Anything else?"

"If you can stay another month, I'll be able to teach you how to fight Kabuki-style."

Hinata groaned. She would only be here for another week. It wouldn't be enough time. "Could I learn it while I master puppeteering?" she asked hopefully.

Kankuro felt pity for the girl. "Sorry, but Kabuki taijutsu drains your chakra reserves over a period of time and it won't be good while you're just starting to learn puppeteering. Maybe another time."

The heiress smiled grimly. She would have to find some way to stay in Suna for another month, even if it meant getting disowned by the Hyuuga. "Yes, maybe another time."

"Well," Kankuro said briskly, getting to his feet. "Let's begin!"

***

A/N.: Well, THANK YOU ! I can tell you want me to continue, which is good! Three reviews in less than 24 hours after the update time! that's gotta be a record.... no not reeally. When I'm still writing Pineapple Blossoms, this won't ever match up to it. Oh, yeah I am getting greedy. Sorry folks, but I need an incentive, because if I don't have one, I just might put it on the back burner, even though I finished chapter 12...

I know it's getting really sober and intense, I swear there will be some comic relief in the shape of a pineapple and a green blur. At least I think it'll be in those shapes and colors... Look, I'm ranting again!

Hey, what do you guys think of Hinata's training? Just watch what I'll throw at you guys next!! The possibilities are endless!