A/N Ah, I'm starting a new story.
Yes, it is a cat story.
No, it is not like any cat story, dog story, puppy story, fox story, etc. that you have seen in fanfiction. It's not crackish or too cutesy, I hope, but it will be humorous/adventure.
I have my own plot and it doesn't resemble any others that I have seen. I actually got the idea for my cat story plot when I saw the Neco-baa-chan and nincats Sasuke went to visit in the anime before he went to fight Itachi. This story takes place much sooner, when the only Akatsuki dead is Sasori.
Thinking Out Of The Box
Konohagakure no Sato
Sakura pulled back from the microscope and tiredly rubbed her eyes. The light was dim in the hospital's basement lab, except for the illumination from the high-powered microscope and the small desk-lamp set up next to the stack of papers that she was currently writing notes on.
It had taken her most of the last four weeks since she'd come home from Suna, but her diligence was paying off. She'd spent every night in the lab breaking down the exact components on formula of the poisons used by Akasuna no Sasori. Now she had the exact formulas used by the s-class Sand ninja. They were hers and they were a powerful weapon.
She'd broken it down enough while still in Suna to come up with an antidote that worked, but it was half-assed at best and she knew it. Sakura'd been trying to save a comrade and there was no time for exact formulas and the perfection that she would normally strive for. As a result, Kankuro, as well as she herself, was still suffering muscle fatigue and damage to some organs. The only other person to be poisoned and keep fighting, Chiyo-obaa-san, had died saving Gaara.
The formula she just tested was going to erase that damage for Kankuro. She knew this because she had been testing it on herself and it was now perfect. She thought she might even share the poison along with the antidote with Kankuro. Many puppet masters liked to use poison with their weapons to make them more effective and without him she would not have figured it out. She decided she would definitely be trying it out a little, now she had a perfect antidote to such a deadly weapon.
She set her pen down and stretched her arms up high, popping her spine. She'd been at this for the last six hours without a break and her stomach was complaining.
"Haruno-san," a voice spoke from a darkened corner of her lab.
She looked back and a dog-faced masked man stepped from the shadows. The ANBU had been so silent she hadn't even felt him enter the lab.
'I must be really tired, to let my guard down so much,' she thought.
"Hokage-sama wishes for you to come to her residence as soon as possible."
Sakura looked at the clock on the wall, 'What could Tsunade want at three in the morning?' She had no idea.
"Is someone hurt?"
"I don't think so, Haruno-san."
"Ok, I'll be there in fifteen minutes. Arigato, Inu-san."
Sakura knew the ANBU behind the mask. She had worked with almost every individual in ANBU at one time or another, but it was considered extremely bad form to call out their real names while they were masked. Besides, you never knew where there might be spies, and to let others know of their identity was dangerous to the ANBU ninjas. The anonymity gave them freedom to lead a slightly more normal life when they weren't working.
Sadly, with the threat of Akatsuki now on the five nations, the ANBU was being run ragged—more were killed every month.
There was one less Akatsuki now, thanks to Chiyo-baa-san. Together they had defeated her grandson, Sasori, but the price had been too high. Granny Chiyo along with dozens of jounin and some of the Kazekage's closest advisors had been killed in the Suna battle against only two Akatsuki. These s-class nin were just too freakishly strong and they posed an ominous threat to the five nations.
Sakura turned off the microscope and desk lamp before picking up her files. The dark lab was no maze to her, having spent years doing research here. She padded over to the small fridge in the corner and grabbed the large bento she'd left there when it was delivered earlier that day.
When she got to work on something as interesting as this poison she often forgot to eat, so it had become a habit to pre-order a bento from her favorite sushi joint for days she worked in the lab. They always made sure she had a variety of goodies and sent it over to the hospital. If she had to waste time to decide about things like that, she would probably end up skipping more meals in exchange for getting more lab work underway. She really got a high from breaking the mysteries of medicine. There was even bathroom with a shower here, if she needed it and a cot for her to crash on, if she got too involved a case to go home and sleep.
Sakura locked the lab and sealed the door. She wasn't taking any chances of espionage after the breakthroughs she'd had this week.
Taking her bento and the files for Tsunade she left the hospital and walked over to the Hokage's mansion. It wasn't really a mansion, that was kind of a running joke. It was a nice, big, two-story home, built close to the Hokage's offices and with superior security to protect it. It was the home of any Hokage and their family while they were in office.
The entrance was on the second floor and Sakura climbed the stairs to the large double doors. She reached out to knock and another voice spoke from the shadows.
"You are expected, Hurano-san. Please enter."
Sakura nodded her thanks and opened the heavy door to hear laughter.
'Well it can't all be bad news,' she thought going in. She slipped out of her sandals and into a pair of slippers provided for guests.
"Nya. Hello, pretty lady."
Sakura looked up, meeting the bright, golden eyes of a pretty, grey cat sitting on the high table where she'd set down her stuff while changing shoes.
"Did you just talk to me?" Sakura asked in surprise.
"Did you bring yums, nya?" the curious cat most certainly had spoken.
"Um…yes, it's sort of my dinner."
"You'll share, nya?"
"I suppose I could," Sakura said slowly. "Who are you?"
"He's just an idiot," another voice spoke from the floor. Sakura looked around to see an orange tabby coming from the shadows.
"I'm no idiot," the first cat grumbled.
"You're no nin-cat, either, blabbermouth. What kind of nin-cat shows stealth by revealing himself and talking to the enemy?"
"Me?" Sakura pointed at herself. "I'm the enemy?"
"Nyan. Well now, we don't know that, but this dimwit would have given us away if you were, right?"
The pink-haired girl nodded silently.
"She smells nice, nya, and she brought yums," the grey cat purred.
"Tsunade-san knows you're here, doesn't she?" she asked the cute, talkative kitty.
"Nya, we came with Mistress to visit her."
"Nya, Mistress Neko-Obaa-chan. She's drinking with Tsunade-chan.
"We've known Tsunade since she was a little girl."
"Really? I didn't know cats lived such long lives," Tsunade had been around awhile despite looking so young, thanks to her special youth jutsu.
"Nin-cats," the cat corrected her, "Nya, what's your name, pretty lady?"
"Haruno Sakura, desu. Hajimemashite, nin-cat-san," Sakura bowed her head.
"Nya, Sakura-chan! Douzoyoroshiku! I am ninja-warrior neko Denka, desu—and this is Hina-sama. Nnayan!"
"Are you always so cheerful, Denka-kun?" He reminded her of another over-exuberant knucklehead she knew.
"He is," the orange tabby, Hina-san, growled.
"Sakura! Get your ass in here! I want you to meet someone special."
"Hina-san, how many bottles have they had?"
"I believe they are on their fifth," the orange tabby answered.
"Wonderful. Feeling no pain but not enough to puke yet," Sakura sneered.
Sakura entered the Hokage's living space. It was large room with sunflower-yellows walls, delicate sheers, velvet curtains and huge pillows everywhere with small, low tables spaced here and there in between. The fabrics were beautiful shades of turquoise in a mix of silks, cottons, and velvets, with gold trims and brocades. Interspersed here and there were smaller, colorful pink and orange pillows. The whole effect was very casual and kind of amusing. It was the exact opposite of Tsunade's stuffy office, and probably just what she needed to unwind after the stress of dealing with death and politics all day long. Her drinking was probably helping keep her sane too with all the worries of the world dropped on her shoulders daily.
Tsunade looked like a princess holding court in her lavender, silk pajamas. There were a half dozen kittens running around play-fighting between pillow mountains while the two women holding court laughed and drank. The heady scent of sake was heavy in the air.
"Good evening, Sakura-chan. Come inside and have a seat."
"Evening? It's nearly morning, Tsunade," Sakura corrected.
The buxom, blonde ninja waved her observation aside, "Come, meet an old friend of mine. I've known her since before I was a genin. She's a good friend of my great-grandfathers, and an old Loremaster of the Uchiha's."
"But…that would make her..."
"Ancient dear, say it once, but don't harp on it. You may call me Neko-baa-chan."
She held her sake cup up to Sakura, "To your health, dear."
"Arigato. Yoroshiku onegai shimasu, Neko-baa-chan," Sakura bowed deeply.
When she came up she looked closer at the attractive lady, who certainly did not look ancient. "Um…I don't want to be rude, but…do you have cat ears?"
"What!" the silver-haired female exclaimed loudly grabbing her head. Sakura put her hand over her mouth, embarrassed for saying something so stupid.
The lady smiled at her kindly.
"Of course I do, dear. Don't worry, you didn't offend me."
Tsunade was laughing into her sake cup.
"She got you good, Sakura!" Tsunade giggled, taking another drink.
"Very funny, Shishou. May I ask why you called me out in the middle of the night?"
"Sit down, Sakura-chan… is that a sushi bento from Manjas? Oh, Neko-chan, we're in for a treat!"
Sakura sighed, 'At least I'll get some dinner,' she thought. She opened the bento and set it on the table. Six kittens and the two, older nin-cats lined up in a neat silent row at the tableside making Sakura laugh. Neko-baa-chan's ears atop her head actually moved forward with interest when she opened the lid.
"It's beautiful, my dear! Are they open all night?"
"No, I was busy in the lab so I left my dinner in the fridge. There's plenty, please help yourself.
Tsunade took the chopsticks and broke them apart. Before each kitten and cat she set a pretty piece of sushi.
"Douzo," Tsunade smiled at their cute, sweet faces.
"Itadakimusu!" the cats meowed thanks before delicately eating their meal.
Sakura was enchanted watching them relish the treat. She sat down, pulling out 2 extra sets of chopsticks from the sack handing one to Neko-baa-chan and breaking apart her own. The three women said thanks and began to enjoy the masterfully made sushi. Neko-chan poured Sakura a cup of sake while Tsunade perused the report from the lab.
Sakura put her hand up, "I shouldn't be drinking, Shisou. I plan on going back to work tonight."
"Nonsense! You deserve it if this report is true. Congratulations on your find. I'll have word sent right away so Kankuro-san can receive the proper follow up."
"Thanks, Shisou," Sakura lifted the cup and they toasted her success.
Two hours and many bottles of sake later the three women were talking animatedly.
"Is it true you are a Loremaster for the Uchiha clan?" Sakura queried.
"Yes. What's left of them. Though if they maintain the path they are on, I'm afraid they will soon be extinct," the sage said wisely.
"That's why I called you here, Sakura-chan. Some new evidence has come to light about the elder brother about that puts his actions into a new light."
"What are you saying?"
"What I'm saying is that I need to capture him to find out if there was more to the massacre then what appeared." Tsunade explained. "There's evidence the order to exterminate the clan came from a higher up, but there's definitely not enough clues right now to prove my theory either way yet. If those two impulsive brats kill each other off no one will ever be able to bring the real culprit to justice."
"'Nade, dear, are you sure this child is strong enough to bell the cat?"
"I have absolute faith in Sakura, both as a kunochi and the best chance to save the Uchiha boys from themselves. She has my strength and knowledge and she cares about at least one of the Uchiha boys as much as you do both. I know she can succeed. Besides, there's no way I can leave Konoha for a month unnoticed, and forgive me, Neko-chan, I know you're strong, but you are getting on in years."
"Well I pray that someone can knock some sense into the boys. With our help perhaps she could-"
"Ah, excuse me," Sakura interrupted, "I'm still in the room. Could you let me in on this mission I'm supposed to undertake?"
The two elder women looked at each other and Neko-baa-chan nodded.
"Haruno Sakura, you are being sent undercover to capture Itachi Uchiha, and any other Akatsuki you come into contact with, while on your mission."
Sakura laughed, "Hai, ok, just let me go get my big net and ass kicking boots—I'll be right back." She made to rise as a joke but Tsunade looked dead serious. She sat back down.
"How in the hell am I going to capture any member of Akatsuki? I barely escaped with my life last time and I had help."
"Oh, you can do it, Sakura-chan. This time your help will be even better."
"Us," they both told her with smug, cat-like smiles.
"You want to use what!"
"Magic, dear, they'll never know what hit them."
"If it is so easy how come it hasn't been done already?"
"Because, my sweet girl, I have never been one to meddle in the affairs of men. Normally. But now, these two are foolishly going to exterminate an ancient race of ninja with their stupid pride. It's high time I stepped in."
"But you said you couldn't."
"The boys know me too well, dear. Itachi would know it's me from a mile away."
"Sakura, if you capture Itachi then Sasuke will head straight for Konoha and we can settle things properly, force them to work out what happened without more killing."
"You'll definitely make this old woman happy if you can do it, Sakura-chan," Neko-chan purred.
"I am willing to do whatever I can to save Naruto and foil Akatsuki plans. If it brings Sasuke home, all the better, but… Do you really think we can make it work?"
Both women and the elder cats nodded at her.
"Ok, tell me what I have to do, Shisou."
Neko-baa-chan brought out two, light-pink collars with a small white bell attached to them both and handed one to Sakura and Tsunade with a stern warning.
"Do not read the inscription aloud yourselves, ever or let anyone else you don't wish to capture during the first month."
Sakura turned hers over to read and noticed two things. The first was that the words seemed to move. What at first seemed mere scribble slowly became legible script.
'Your soul is tied to my heart.' Sakura felt the compulsion to say it allowed but resisted on the Loremaster's advice.
The second thing she noticed, "Ne, Neko-baa-chan, the bell does not ring."
"Of course not dear, it will only ring when the spell is activated."
"Oh," Sakura said, not quite understanding.
"You must get the man or woman you intend to capture alone with you. The inscription will become clear to them and they will be compelled to read it aloud. When they do, the bell will ring and they will be ensnared."
"That sounds too easy."
"Not as easy as it sounds, dear. First, you will be in the form of a cat. Next, you must find a way to infiltrate their base, and then endear yourself to them so they will let you stay there and finally, corner each one alone to trap them. Some might want to kill you, not everyone tolerates felines. You also have to keep them from figuring out your motives, as you will take on the form of a cat for a whole month. The last few days of the month you may lose some control over the spell so you'll have to be extra cautious who reads it. Most important, don't forget, if you lose your collar during that month, you may not ever change back to a human."
"Wait, I have to take the form of a…"
"Cat. Yes, dear, for a whole cycle of the moon, about 29.5 days. Once the change leaves you, it will come to them. You must get them away from the rest of your enemies in stealth to keep the magic intact. Tsunade will also be keeping you under the spell while you're gone, and help you control your captives when you return."
"How will I fool them? I know nothing about being a cat."
"We'll teach you, Sakura-chan," Denka volunteered and all the kittens meowed in agreement.
"You'll get a crash course today from these guys and tonight I'll be 'officially' sending you on a five week mission to Sand. You'll come back here to my house later today in secret and Neko-baa-chan and I will be transferring the spells to you. You'll have enough to capture nine Akatsuki, if you can, with Itachi being your main target. We have to do this now at the moon's new cycle or wait another month and those boys might kill each other by then. After the spell begins you'll have about three days to get to the last known and most trusted sightings I have of the Akatsuki member Uchiha Itachi—in Grass country. Three days after the spell begins the moons changing will turn you into a cat for 29.5 days and your mission begins. During that time I will not be able to help or contact you, but when you come back I will be helping you police the group through our collars.
We will be attached to these criminals for a full three years. If either one of us dies in that time they are all doomed to remain cats forever. We can also remove the spell, causing this to happen will be punishment if they are beyond rehabilitation, it is irreversible. Those that live out their punishment peacefully in this village, and contribute to Konoha's welfare, will be returned to their original forms as a reward."
"We are to be tied to them for three full years?" Sakura was stunned.
"Yes. We have to make sure the jinchuurikis rituals will never be finished. They have less than three years to complete that mission, or they will fail to assume the Jinchurikis' power."
"Oh, that makes sense. I guess."
"One thing more, after you change back. In time of need we can call one or all under the spell to our aid with the collars simply by thinking their names and touching the bell. Once a month during the full moon they will return to human form for about twenty four hours but the contract with us still holds, they cannot kill us or they'll remain cats forever if we die. We also must be their guardians for you cannot have take, without some give. We must also protect them, if they were to die we will live on, but we will feel the loss greatly."
"We? As in…"
"Haruno Sakura, this long term S-rank mission will take you the next three years of your life. If you have the slightest bit of doubt in your abilities let me know right now and I will find a suitable replacement," Tsunade sounded once more like the Hokage.
"I can and will finish this mission, Shisou," Sakura nodded her head respectfully.
"Good girl. The other details can be worked out when you return home. Now prepare yourself. Neko-chan is going to give you your first experience as a cat and you will spend today learning. We have to hurry, the next full moon is in four days and we must have you in Grass by then. You will be able to speak the human tongue with us as a cat for now, but once in Grass you will speak only in cat language to help hide your true identity. Are you ready?"
"Why not? Once begun—"
"—Sooner done," Neko-chan finished, standing up. Placing her hands on the young kunochi she began chanting and by the time she finished Sakura had disappeared and a pretty, little, sleek-haired, white cat had taken her place. Neko-chan put her collar and her and spoke. "How are you feeling dear?"
"Short…and furry," Sakura purred and picked up a paw to examine it with large verdant eyes, "but I'm ok."
"Sakura-chan!" The kittens meowed, "Come on, let's play!" The kittens called to her and she followed them, awkward at first, on four legs but soon began she bounding playfully with them.
"Neko-chan, I have to get ready for work. Will you be ok here with the little ones?"
"Don't worry, princess. We'll have Sakura feeling confident as a feline by the end of the day."
"Thank you, Neko-baa-chan. You're not only helping the Uchiha boys, your saving the boy I see as my own grandson, along with countless others by declawing the Akatsuki."
"My pleasure, dear. It's not right when the balance of power swings too far. We'll get it back on an even keel. Now go get ready for work I'll talk to you later."
"Shizune, draw up some papers, I'm sending Sakura on a mission. The official destination will be Suna," Tsunade told her assistant.
Shizune knew this wording to mean she was to ask no questions and give out no info on the girl's mission, even after it was completed. S-class.
"Yes, ma'am, right away."
The ever faithful assistant hurried to complete the order while Tsunade laid her head on her desk to catch a cat nap after staying up all night.
Sakura and the cats played for what seemed like hours. She asked Hina-chan and Denka-kun a hundred questions, some silly, others not. They chased each other and they even found a few mice in the cellar. Denka taught her the best way to trap and kill mice and by the time they were finished Sakura was confident but worn-out.
"How do you do it? I am so tired," Sakura commented.
"We're cats. We do as we please. Whether it's play, hunt, or sleep—any time of day. We have no master but ourselves."
"But you call Neko-chan master, or rather, mistress."
"Only out of respect, and she knows this. Come," Hina-chan led them upstairs.
"Where are we going?"
"To sleep, of course. What else?" Denka-kun told her. The kittens bounded back to the living room before them calling Neko-chan.
"But it's the middle of the day!"
"Who cares? Cats do as they please. Come here."
"Cats like to sleep together or with their people, come nap with us. Think of it as bonding. It will be the best way for you to get close to your target."
"I should sleep with them?"
"Yes, and let them pet you, love you."
"Love! These are evil men!" the small, white, girl-turned-cat was stunned.
"You'll find a way into their hearts, you'll see. Humans love and trust most animals in ways they would never other humans. They are not threatened by us. We are pleasing to look at—they can't help themselves."
Sakura curled up with the kittens around Neko-chan. It was amazingly warm.
Neko-baa-chan began stroking Sakura's fur and it felt so comforting, so wonderful, she found herself purring loudly as she drifted off to sleep.
'Perhaps this might not be so bad,' she thought lazily.
When Sakura woke she was back to her normal body with cats sleeping all over her. She laughed a little and sat up.
"Well dear, do you think you've had sufficient training for your mission?"
"Yes, thank you. It was an incredible experience. I will do my best."
"Of course you will, my dear. Bring our boys home and we will straighten them out together once and for all. Then you can stop worrying so much over that young man and begin to enjoy yourself."
Sakura turned red with embarrassment.
"Think nothing of it dear. You need to be a little selfish sometimes, and hope for your own dreams. You deserve happiness too."
Sakura nodded, keeping her mouth shut.
"Do you have any details you need to wrap up before you leave?"
"Oh yes. I need to talk to my landlord and secure the lab."
"Go see Tsunade for your mission scroll before you come back here. We'll be performing the rites for the spell tonight to get you on your way."
"Yes, ok. See you later."
Sakura took care of business and told Kakashi to tell Naruto goodbye. He would keep an eye on her place, bringing Naruto by to clean out the fridge for her. She cleaned out and stored all suspended experiments, cleaned out her lab fridge and locked the lab down. She made sure the instructions had been sent for Kankurou's follow up care and lastly knocked on the Hokage's door.
"Come in," Shizune called. She nodded hello to Sakura and wished her good luck with a hug, before closing the door.
"Does she know?"
"None but us three know of this mission and that's how it will stay until you return. I have one more helping but he doesn't know the details yet. Do not come back during the daytime. Sneak in back through the Uchiha compound at night. We will show you the way. Go into house of Uchiha and store your wards before coming to get me and I will come personally to inform them of what will be. You can tell them what you need to after they have changed, but only say what you must—to keep them behaving. They will be deeply compelled to follow and protect you no matter what they wish. Threaten them with a permanent transformation if need be. Neko-baa-chan will return to talk to them also, I just can't say when. She really is part cat and real cats go by their own agenda, as I'm sure you have experienced firsthand.
"Ok, here's your mission scroll. Let's go back to my place and get this show on the road."
One of Tsunade's guest rooms had been transformed into a mystic's circle. The whole floor was marked with strange runes, waiting. There were nine collars set on nine inner circles. The air was humming with magic.
"This is a powerful spell, dear. I will need you both to release your chakra paths and let them flow while I work. If you get tired, just lay down where you stand and let sleep overtake you. It will do no harm as this will take many hours."
She turned to the pink-haired slip of a girl who was about to take on the mission of a lifetime.
"Are you ready, dear?"
"Take your place in the center of the circles. Tsunade, you stand on the one to the right and I will take the one to the left."
"What if you get tired?" Sakura asked.
The cat-like ears twitched on Neko-chan's head, "My dear, I can go days without rest. Don't worry about me. Let's begin."
The women opened their chakra paths and Neko-baa-san said a few words that were unfamiliar to Sakura. Immediately she felt her chakra begin to drain steadily from her body through the collar while the spell began its work.
No take without give, she had said. The women were going to have to give a good deal of their strength and power for this to work as desired. Three hours into it Sakura began to tire and by the fifth hour she lay down and gave herself over to the trust that Neko-chan and Tsunade would take care of her. Their power felt warm and comforting around her as she lay on the floor. She closed her eyes.
"Sakura, get up, dear."
Eight hours later Sakura opened her eyes feeling both tired and oddly refreshed. Her chakra was slowly regaining itself as the ritual had ended. The sleep had kept her from her strength getting sapped too hard.
She stood up.
"Come, child, we are finished," Neko-baa-chan assured her.
"Tsunade! I can feel you!"
"Yes, Sakura, for the next three years we are connected through the spell. Nothing too direct, I can just feel your spirit and it tells me your life status. I will be able to tell every time you capture one of your targets. If things become too dire, you can call me and I will send help."
"It makes me feel more confident." Sakura smiled softly. "Like I'm not alone in this."
"I wish I could be next to you for real." Tsunade put a hand on her apprentice's shoulder. "I feel like I'm sending you on suicide mission."
"I will make this work, Shisou. I promise."
"I know you will. I'm very proud of my best student."
"Ladies, it's time for Sakura to leave. You only have three days to be at your target. You will travel much slower once you're a cat because you will need more rest."
"Let's go to the Uchiha compound."
There were still a few minutes till dawn when they stealthily crossed Konoha. They entered the gates and Tsunade led them straight back past the old shrines to the back walls of the city. A familiar form flowed up out of the mist and Sakura recognized the blazing red of the single Sharingan holder. Kakashi greeted them quietly and reported no one was in the vicinity. He hugged Sakura and wished her luck. Stepping back he did some unfamiliar hand seals and slapped the wall.
"Sakura, I will be here for the whole week looking for you after your time is up. Come to the wall only at night and only if you sense no one else near. You'll know it's me here." His mask lifted with a smile and Sakura felt reassured.
"Go get em', girl," he ordered.
Sakura was exhausted.
She had run her ass off for two and a half days to get to Grass country in the allotted time. Every time she had felt another strong chakra signature she had gone out of way to avoid it.
Imagine fighting a battle and turning into a helpless kitty during it. Her opponent would make short work of her. Plus, she had to get close to the village where ANBU had found evidence of not just one, but three different Akatsuki sightings, and the two more recent sightings of Uchiha Itachi, her main target. No matter what, she was determined she would bring him back. Without him Sasuke might never return home.
She had spent the morning searching outside the village with no luck.
Soon her energy would run to nothing, she had to sleep.
She'd been forced to leave her weapons at home along with her hitai-ate. She wore only a black tank and form fitting shorts and showed no affiliation to Konoha. The only things in her pocket were nine collars for possible captives. A dark shadow flying through the trees, her bright shoulder length loud hair might give her away, but only if she was caught before she transformed.
She'd lived on soldier pills and water for the last two days.
Giving up for the moment, she found a quiet grove of trees outside the village and hid herself high in a tree to take a nap.
When Sakura woke she fell off of her branch. What saved her were her fingers clawing at the wood slowing her fall. No, not fingers, paws—claws stretched out and grasping. She slid to a halt as they dug in. Taking a moment to catch her breath she slowly descended to the ground.
Soldier pills gone and water canteen up the tree, she decided to investigate the village again.
'It's not like I can unscrew the cap with my paws, anyhow,' she thought.
The village looked much larger from her new vantage point. It smelled very different too. Dogs and children were to be avoided as she slipped silently around houses and headed toward the tiny food district. If Akatsuki had business in the village, it was more likely to come through this part.
She let her nose and tummy lead her to the better smelling stalls. She could smell fresh fish and the earthy smell of vegetables. The tang of spicy sauces was on the air and the sweet smell of dango dumplings.
When she neared the dango booth she saw a flash of black and red.
Growing instantly alert, she stole crossed the street and peeked over to see none other than her target enjoying an afternoon snack. She never thought about criminals liking sweets, or liking anything really. Everyone had to eat, but it was still weird.
'Now or never,' she thought, creeping across the road.
Itachi and Kisame stopped by a dango stand in the village to have some of their favorite sticky sweets and tea, before returning to their base after the latest mission. They received their order and sat at the table closest to the open air.
Itachi set his straw hat with the fabric streamers down on a chair next to him while they ate.
While savoring his green tea dango, the beautiful man with the long, dark hair and darker aura heard a bell chime. He looks down noticing a small white cat playing with the white streamers of his hat to which a small bell was attached.
He ignored the harmless feline as Kisame talked to him, until he heard a thump and a frustrated meow. The most-feared Akatsuki ninja in five nations looked over to see his hat has fallen off the chair.
As he looked at it with a slight frown on his face, the hat moved slightly once, then twice. Before it could run beyond his reach he bent over to pick it up.
A tiny, inquisitive, pale face peered out from beneath it and quietly said hello.
"Hello, little one," the Uchiha's rich, gentle voice greeted the small, white cat with large, emerald eyes while picking up his hat. He saw she wanted to play with the fabric streamers some more and he put his hat up on the table out of her reach. The cat sat quietly purring and watched him while he finished his dango.
Kisame watched the whole bizarre interaction before he spoke.
"Even female animals are drawn to you."
"It's probably because you look like a fish," Itachi shot back.
"Touché," Kisame laughed.
The owner of the stall came out nervously to their table.
"I'm sorry to bother you—but I have to ask you not to bring pets into my place of business."
"We didn't bring the cat here," Kisame told him.
"Sorry, good sirs, but this is the first time I've seen one like it here in the village—so I just assumed it was yours. It seems to have taken a liking to you, sir," he indicated the kitten who is staring adoringly at Itachi.
"It has a collar so there must be an owner." Kisame pointed to the pink ribbon collar tied in a bow that had a tiny bell in the middle around the cat's neck. There seemed to be some black script along it.
"Sir, can you please read it and I will try to find the pet's master?" The owner requested self consciously playing with the towel in his hands, "I'm afraid I can't read too well."
"Come here, little one," Itachi ordered.
The little cat walked up, unafraid, to the S-class criminal. Itachi picked up the cat, but he didn't recognize the language written on the collar. He held the cat up for Kisame who shook his head. "Never seen it," he said abruptly.
"I'm sorry it seems to be a language foreign to us," Itachi told him, as he set the cat down on the floor and she immediately jumped up into his lap and sat staring intently at him as she purred loudly.
"Thank you for trying, sirs. If you'll excuse me I have to return to work."
"Get down, little one," Itachi commanded softly and the little cat jumped off him and sat by his feet waiting expectantly.
"The young lady's in love," Kisame observed with a chuckle.
They finished their snack, and stood to leave. Itachi walked out of the stall and the little cat followed him out of the stand and furthermore, out of the village.
"It seems to have a fascination with the hats," Itachi remarked.
"No. It seems to have a fascination with you, Uchiha."
Itachi tried to shoo it away, but the sleek, white cat followed them without fear. They took to the trees to distance themselves quickly but they both noticed the cat stalking them from the ground. For miles it raced after them, falling behind but never giving up. It followed them all the way to the door of their base.
"Leave it alone, it will move on soon enough."
"Funny," Kisame observed with a snicker.
"A damn cat can do what countless ninjas in countless countries have failed to do."
Itachi raised an eyebrow.
"Find an Akatsuki base." Kisame laughed out loud.
A/N Hopefully you can see now, that this is the beginning of a different kind of animal tale. If you don't like animal tales I suggest you read no further. But if you like it let me know. Thanks, I'm excited to start a new story and keep more than one going at the same time again. I enjoy the challenge.
Things you probably already know:
Cat-o-nine-tails—A whip, consisting of nine knotted cords fastened to a handle, used in flogging, so called because it leaves marks like the scratches of a cat. In this story it is symbolic. It symbolizes three things, Sakura's being used as a weapon, two-a weapon being used to protect the nine tailed fox, and one other thing I won't reveal yet because smart readers will figure out more than I want them to. Just know that it's symbolic and not the actual whip-weapon someone uses here. The number nine is significant in parts of this story too—again, symbolic.
Touché- a French saying meaning good hit or good one, referring to a scoring sword hit or as in this case, an especially witty remark.
Loremaster-A keeper of ancient lore and otherwise lost knowledge. A Loremaster uses his knowledge to try to keep a balance of the good and evil in the world around them. They never interfere in the matters of men-except when circumstances have gone beyond the hope of the return to balance. (Now, take that with a grain of salt please, it's kind of made up for my story with partial characteristics of a Lore master with a few of my own added in. Neko-chan wants peace between Uchiha and Tsunade's line because she is close to both and saddened by the downfall of the Uchiha's, not wishing them to fall into ruin.)
Neko-baa-chan-basically Grandma Kitty
Yoroshiku onegai shimasu-Pleased to meet you or maybe please take care of me.
Douzo-means something like-Please do, or 'you're welcome to' partake (that may be stretching it a bit, I'm not sure.) Tsunade was inviting the cats to go ahead and start eating anyhow.
Douzoyoroshiku—Very pleased to make your acquaintance.
Bell the cat—means to undertake something dangerous
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