Chapter 1: Loyalty Lies


From the moment I arrived in Suna to the moment I left I was put to work and escorted by two faceless ninja to the village's morgue where apparently 'my assistants was required'. They told me no more than that and I, tried from the long trip and the desert sun, was vaguely annoyed by Gaara's lack of trust.

Some part of me wished I wasn't so good at my job, there'd been too many murders lately and the images of their sleep-like faces were burned into my hazy memory. Faces among the many others I've seen…

Everyone in the room stiffened when the door to the morgue opened and the ninja gestured me in –such a gentlemen, letting the lady be the first to catch a whiff of decay carrying with a cold breeze. Mm, just what I needed in the morning. My gaze swept over the room as if all the men present were suspected of the murders –it was how I gained respect, and a few kiss-ups, on missions like these.

Tsunade-shishou said I was very privileged, being requested to help in Suna by the Kazakage and being the first person in Konoha to know about the murders. But really I think it made people suspicious.

I wasn't born and raised in the Village Hidden in the Leafs like all my other friends and Masters. I was born in a near ninja-less village of Amegakure –the Village Hidden in the Rain- and I am the sole heir and daughter to its proclaimed leader, Pein. Amegakure had its stories about us; the God of Rain taking a war orphan, Konan, for his wife who later gave birth to me.

But what the civilians didn't know was that their 'God' was also co-founder and leader of the Akatsuki.

In the years I'd spent wandering the streets of my father's village everyone saw the Akatsuki, a group of missing-nin from other villages who are both elite and deadly, like they would ANBU in Konoha they were to be feared and respected. But that was only from my frequent visits, when I was a child I was kept in the Tower, away from the prying eyes of my parent's many enemies. Sadly, one had broken through and Orochimaru came for me during my second year of freedom. In which gave me a one-way ticket to Konohagakure to live with the Third Hokage's family and train under their finest.

Another shinobi, a younger one, stepped forward. "Ma'm you can't be-"

"Gentlemen," he stopped in mid-step. "I'd like you to meet a dear friend of mine, Kurosu Sakura." The deathly calm, impassive face of their Lord reassured them that I was allowed to be here. "Finally you decide to show up, Lady Hinata was getting worried." Gaara droned in his usual indifferent voice, arms crossing his robe covered chest –I always thought it was funny how formal he had to be when wearing his 'working clothes'. I smirked, almost failing at not laughing, and strode into the room further.

"Sorry. I came as quickly as I could." My gaze landed on the five, still figures under the white sheets. I'd almost forgotten why I'd come here. "They were found this morning?"

"Yes." Another guard said. "We've yet to indentify…the bodies."

"May I…?" Gaara gestured out the invitation the sleeve of his robe trailing with it, and I pulled a white sheet off a body and revealing a corpse.

Many of the guards turned away out of either respect for the dead or utter disgust, but I stared on, going over the damage done to the body. From where I grew up, and how I was raised, I'd seen many deaths. And this was less hostile.

"Where were they found?" I scared me how calm I could be at these times; it was almost as if I had turned into Gaara with his emotionless exterior.

What if this was someone I knew?

An Akatsuki? A teammate? A friend?

Would I break everything I'd trained for and cry?

"All these men were on guard duty." Gaara said. "They were found when the guards were supposed to switch out." Placing the sheet gently down, I tried to ignore the blackened burn marks blistered with dry blood on the once face.

It's starting. Saku whispered as if the men in the room could hear her.

Saku was a demon, not a Tailed Beast but a demon all the same. One with miraculous power of healing; she was put into my body when I was just a toddler dying of a high fever. A few years ago I learned how to project her out of my body, but whenever I did that the illness that threatened my life came back, it only slated when she returned into me. But other than that we got along well, aside from the common argument about her completely ignoring me sometimes that resulted in me having a headache.

"This doesn't look like a warning. The body seems to have suffered very little, a quick kill that the murders weren't expecting…Maybe a threat that something is coming." The small hints that I dropped when I knew something I couldn't tell others had two effects: one they could save my friends and two they could kill me for betrayal.

Really if I had it my way I'd probably go rove from Konoha and Ame, so I could live without people telling me what to do, however, the strings that attached me to my friends and family pulled me in all different directions, all with different expectations.

Pein wanted me to not be any trouble and get information of the enemy. Naruto wanted me to be his loyal friend and spare no secrets. Hidan wanted to make me a Jashinist. Hinata and Gaara, though they asked small, few favors, wanted me to be the God mother to any children they many have. Ino wanted me to help her train. Kisame wanted to go on a mission with me. Lee wanted to go on a date. And Itachi wanted me to forget about our almost-kiss last summer.

With all these strings I was starting to feel like one of Sasori's puppets.

But I knew I was not a puppet…I simply a pawn in a game on the chessboard of Pein's plans.

"I see," Gaara measured my words, though I knew he trusted my say over all other medic-nin in his village or the Elders –if the spoiled little Kazakage had it his way I'd be his personal assistant by now.

Yup, making friends with the redhead, raccoon-eyed misfit when I was young certainly paid off. "Thank you for your observation. I suggest you head towards the mansion, Lady Hinata and my brother will show you where you'll be staying. I trust you could find it on your own." I really hated formal Gaara; it annoyed me to no end that he could just say: "Well…I'll meet up with you later. Hinata wants to see you." But it was very humorous.

Happy to be given my marching orders, I bowed and quickly left.

The desert's heat poured down on me and warmth flowed through my otherwise cold skin, but still the chill of the morgue clung repulsively to my skin and the face of one of the victims burned into my thoughts.

No doubt that was the work of Deidara and Sasori. Saku growled distastefully and I couldn't help but reply. Through my mind, thank Kami.

They lied; they're not expected to go after the Tailed Beast until next year. Pein told me...

Sakura-hime, with all due respect, you were raised by criminals you should know how to think like them. A shadow casted over the ground, one of a large bird, and my head snapped up fast enough to give me whiplash and caught sight of windblown, black cape.

An Akatsuki cape.

My fists clenched and my nails dug into the skin of my palms, creating tiny cresents in her palms.

They're just playing games with me now.

And if you let them have the reaction they want they wouldn't respect you. Sauk's voice held the unyielding patience of a teacher, the one she used when explaining to me what I was doing wrong during my training. Control, Sakura-hime. Control. Don't let your emotions play you.

At will I unclenched my fists, pushed the scream of rage and furious punishments planned into the darkest corner of my mind for later use and, forgetting completely about where I was going, followed the giant clay bird through the village.

Sasori and Deidara weren't hard to find, in my opinion. They liked high places and the village wall was the place to be. As a result, I climbed to the top of the wall huffing and puffing once I got their and having to dodging a fudging (Out of all the cuss words I had a resistance against that one) rain of kunai knives before glaring at the two men lounging around, waiting for dark.

"You really are asking for it, aren't you?" Deidara sent an icy glare in my direction and Sasori's emotions were masked behind his wooden puppet with a long metal tale.

"Sakura-hime, good to see you again, un." Deidara smirked seeming genuine happy, and continued with his work. "Sorry about the bodies, they found us up here." I tried not to roll my eyes at his casual reply.

"Your targeting the Kazakage aren't you?" The two went silent for a moment then Sasori sighed and moved over to me.

"Even when Leader-sama tries you just get a hold of information anyway. Tell your old master, how did you do it this time? Ease dropping? Did you bribe Hidan and Kakazu again?"

"Believe it or not, Master Sasori, when I was called into the morgue yesterday I noticed that the victims I'd checked had burn marks, complements of Deidara's bombs, or poisoned by a tonic I helped you make. You're reactions confirmed it." Sasori's puppet mask held his emotion as inside I knew he was both impressed and pissed.

"So what will you do now, Sakura-hime?" A vein popped out in my forehead, only for a moment before I continued my perfect façade as their leader's calm and collected daughter.

Control. Saku reminded.

"That is confidential." I said before turning to leave and Deidara called after me.

"That means you don't have a plan, un!" I didn't bother to turn and face him.

"I always have a plan." And it evolves your head, on a spike.

I should have never told you that story.

Quiet! I snapped back at my mind and leaped from the red sand wall to the mansion.

I missed you all! Very much! Give me some love, give me a review, tell me what your readings, what's up, what you think!

This story has sooo much more I really enjoyed writing it and loved added my personal spice to it.