Hey guys. Two reviewers pointed out that a. my paragraphs can be really bulky and that b. I am spelling kunoichi wrong. I am going to fix these in the upcoming chapters. Thank you so much to those two reviewers for your kind words of constructive criticism. Every bit helps. Sorry for the long wait, I just started college and it's been hard to sit down and write out a chapter. I will try to write faster but with all the work, it will be difficult. Thanks for your patience and chapters will be coming less frequent. Here is the chapter!

The next day, Sakura went to go confront Itachi about what Sasuke told her the night before but found his apartment empty. Immediately she went to see Tsunade and was promptly told that Itachi would be gone for two to four weeks and cannot be contacted by anyone, for fear of compromising the mission. Sakura was beyond angry and stomped out of the Hokage's office and decided to go let out some steam at the training ground. On her way there, Sakura passed by the place where her and Itachi crossed a line that should have never been crossed, where they shared their first kiss. Sakura lifted her fingers to touch her lips and she could still feel the tingle as if the kiss happened moments ago.

Sakura sighed and allowed her hand to fall to her side and continued to walk, leaving that memory of Itachi behind her. She continued till she reached training ground eleven and decided to continue her training in hopes that Itachi would forgive her when he returned from his mission.

"He has to." Sakura thought smugly, knowing that Itachi had invested too much into training her. Sakura didn't understand her new found confidence but started to slightly enjoy it.

As Sakura started to warm up, she couldn't help but allow her thoughts to wander to her and Itachi. The strange feelings that were arising in Sakura's heart, flooding her mind with ideas and dreams that were unrealistic. The ache that Sakura felt from being separated from Itachi forced her hand to her chest, as if the pressure would relieve that pain. Sakura's collapse, her legs caving from the weight of everything going on in her life and she dropped to her knees, wincing at the contact of bone-to-ground.

While Sakura contemplated the events going on in her life, she failed to notice two different things. One, the sky was slowly turning gray and a chill started to fill the air. The second is that she was being watched. This person's chakra was completely hidden and Sakura was so absorbed in her own thoughts that she failed to remember her training with Itachi; always be aware of your surroundings. The unknown person cocked their head to the side, reading the obvious distress, frustration and ache that were etched deeply into the lines on this young kunoichi's face. While the obvious emotions this kunoichi was displaying were slightly interesting, it was not why this person decided to watch her.

'All in good time…' The man thought before sprinting away, his black cloak with red clouds bellowing behind him. 'Leader will be curious to discover what I have learned over the past few weeks.'

Sakura whipped her head around when she heard the slight movement of leaves on a nearly windless day. She shrugged it off, thinking it was an animal but couldn't help the gut wrenching feeling clawing at her stomach. Sakura brought her thoughts back to her task at hand; training. While it became increasingly difficult to concentrate, the heat and Itachi consuming and invading her mind and body, she pushed through and made sure to get all of her training done and added more to the weights periodically. By the time Sakura was finished, she found herself staring into a darkening sky, sweating dripping down her back and making her clothes cling to her skin. Most would feel gross in this state but Sakura felt comforted, knowing that her hard work paid off and she was getting somewhere with her training.

Sakura sat up quickly and proceeded to stand, swaying slightly on her feet. Suddenly she heard a rustle from her right and quickly grabbed a kunai from her pouch and sent it flying to her target.

"Ow, ow, ow!" Sakura's ears perked up at the noise and suddenly an orange and black dressed person with yellow hair flew into the clearing, a kunai embedded in the tree behind him and a gash on his arm. "Sakura-chan! Why did you do that?" Naruto looked up, his cerulean eyes showing pain but no tears formed.

"Ah, gomen Naruto. You shouldn't have scared me like that." Sakura walked over to Naruto and grasped his arm, sending her chakra to stitch up the skin and stop the bleeding. When the healing was over, Sakura brought her hands back to her side and smiled at Naruto.

"Ne, Sakura-chan. When did you get that tattoo?" Naruto poked at the design at Sakura's collarbone and she unconsciously brought her fingers up to trace it.

"Oh this? I learned Tsunade's restoration jutsu and this was the tattoo I got. I guess it's better than I diamond between my eyebrows." Sakura tilted her head and grinned at Naruto before linking their arms together. "You wanna go get ramen with me Naruto? My treat!"

"Hell yeah! Let's go!" Sakura let out a laugh as Naruto pulled her towards her favorite restaurant, enjoying the feeling of being surrounded by a friend. Along the way, they somehow managed to pull Ino, Choiji and Sasuke into the mix and when they arrived, Hinata, Kiba and Shino had just sat down so they pulled their tables together and decided to eat together. Sakura made sure to order sake and decided to sit at the end, next to Sasuke, so that she could speak with him privately.

"Hey Sasuke," he turned towards her and only blinked as conformation that he heard her, "I was thinking about what you said yesterday. How sure are you? Because I cannot confront your brother about this without being 100% certain." Sasuke's eyes hardened and he grabbed her wrist and Sakura winced from the pressure.

"You may not, under ANY circumstances, approach my brother about this." Sakura's jaw became slightly unhinged and her mouth was agape. "Listen. I shouldn't have told you in the first place. I am sorry. But, if my family gets one hint that you may know something, they will kill you if this is true. Not only that, but they will find out about my brother training you and will confront you about it and that is the last thing any of us need is my family harassing you. Let me investigate it. I'll talk to Itachi when he gets back." Sasuke let go of Sakura's wrist when Ayame came around and took orders.

"Beef please. And a bottle of warm sake for me." Sakura lightly rubbed her wrist before turning back to Sasuke. "Listen, I'm not happy about this but I won't confront your brother. But, you will keep me in the loop okay? I promise to keep my mouth shut but you told me this information and therefore I want details. I will not be kept in the dark about this. I—" Sakura paused, not allowing the next words to escape.

"You what Sakura? Care about my brother?" Sakura blushed but refused to answer, her silence giving everything away. "You know that isn't smart, right?" Sakura nodded. "For a genius, you can be pretty stupid." Sakura kicked Sasuke's shin under the table but smiled.

"Yeah, I know."

"Hey lovebirds! Stop whispering over there and talk to the rest of us!" Sakura glared at Kiba from across the table and looked at Sasuke who was blushing slightly but Sakura refused to dwell on it.

"Oh shut up Kiba! Just 'cause you're not getting any doesn't mean you can take your anger out on everyone else!" Sakura yelled back, causing the whole restaurant to turn their heads slightly towards the big group. Kiba blushed and tried to force out a comeback but was too embarrassed to say much of anything.

"Oh shut up Kiba, she got you." Naruto threw his head back and laughed and smoothly swung his arm behind Hinata to rest on the back of her chair. The kunoichi blushed but bravely leaned back so that his arm touched her back. He glanced down at her and gave her a big smile which she returned.

'It's so nice to be around all of them again. These next two weeks without Itachi might not be that bad.' Sakura couldn't help but feel a twinge of guilt until Naruto cracked another joke at Kiba's expense and started drinking and laughing alongside her friends of many years.

It had been two weeks and Sakura had not seen or heard of Itachi's return, which was slightly unnerving but there was nothing she could do about it. Tsunade wouldn't tell her anything so all she could do was wait and Sakura hated playing the waiting game. Sakura had trained hard for these past two weeks but felt she was at a standstill without Itachi there to teach her new training techniques or push her to her limits.

Sakura flopped onto the ground on her back and looked up to the clear blue sky. She closed her eyes, focusing on the world around her and started to pull chakra from her surroundings and putting it into her chakra reserves. She felt the surge of chakra rush her veins and started using it to heal her bruises and sore muscles. Sakura refused to venture any father and halted the inflow of chakra.

"You can kill someone by doing that." Sakura gasped and spun around to see Itachi standing at the edge of the clearing, where dead grass met green grass.

"Itachi!" Sakura fought the urge to run to him and took a step backwards, remembering that she was no longer Itachi's protégé. She felt the butterflies in her stomach appear and looked at the ground. Only Itachi could strip Sakura down to a blushing, nervous twelve year old. She took a deep breath and look up at Itachi, voicing her question.

"Itachi, I apologize for my behavior. Disrespecting you by learning Tsunade's technique… But I had to! Don't you see? I will be a better shinobi because of it." Itachi didn't say a word as Sakura explained herself. "I guess what I am trying to say is, if you will allow it, I want to become your protégé again."

"Yes." Sakura's eyes widened at the response in happiness but before she could blink, Itachi was in front of her with a kunai aimed at her throat. Sakura smirked and ducked quickly, throwing a leg out to trip Itachi, forcing him to jump in the air to avoid the attack. Sakura looked up and jumped, forcing chakra into her feet, sending her flying upwards faster than Itachi. She lifted her knee so her thigh was parallel with the ground, attempting to knee Itachi in the chin. He cupped his hands, stopping her assault and ran his hands down her calf, grabbed her ankle and threw her sideways, allowing him the opportunity to land on the ground and create distance.

"How much weight do you have on?"

"Almost four hundred pounds in each weight." Itachi's eyes widened slightly before smirking victoriously.

'That is more than Gai or Lee… perfect.' This time, Itachi was the one to attack first, throwing four shuriken and following them up with a fire jutsu before disappearing behind the large fireball. Sakura dodged to the left, successfully avoiding the jutsu and shuriken but Itachi was behind her before she could think and sent a kick to her side and connected successfully. Sakura managed to right herself before she hit the tree and landed against the tree and pushed chakra into her feet and launched herself right at Itachi. Sakura changed her position, her feet heading directly towards Itachi and was shocked when her feet hit his sternum, sending him flying backwards. Itachi jumped back at the last second, lessening the impact but could feel his ribs cave under the pressure.

'Yes!' Sakura smiled as she saw Itachi go flying backwards and grab his chest. Sakura allowed herself a small victory and threw a fist up in the air. When she looked back at Itachi, she saw him smirking.

"Why are you so happy?"

"This is the first time I've landed a hit on you when we were sparring! It means I am getting better!" Sakura smiled largely at Itachi, the corners of the mouth seemingly reach her ears.

Watching Itachi wince and grab near his ribs, Sakura walked towards Itachi, her mind already focused on healing Itachi and nothing else. When Sakura reached for the hem of Itachi's shirt, he lifted his arms, despite the pain and allowed the removal of his shirt. Sakura placed her hands on Itachi's chest, avoiding his piercing gaze as she sent her chakra to his ribs and repaired his bones and fixed the bruises. When Sakura was done healing, she kept her hands in place and looked up to meet Itachi's gaze. Flashbacks of their kiss played in Sakura's vision and she felt her face become hot and her mouth became dry. The tips of her fingers clenched slightly and her gaze flickered down to his lips and then back up to his eyes.

"No!" Sakura flew backwards, the outcry falling from her lips and put a hand over her heart. "God damn it Itachi. We need to stop this!" Sakura shook her head, fighting back the tears that threatened to spill over. Itachi opened his mouth to say something but Sakura cut him off. "Stop it! Don't say anything." Sakura whispered the last half almost to herself. "You have a fiancée!" Sakura nearly screamed the last part, the pain in her voice making Itachi flinch.

"Training here tomorrow at 7 PM." And with that, Sakura disappeared with a poof, leaving Itachi there to contemplate his plans for the next few months.

Itachi wanted to tell Sakura that none of it mattered, that his fiancée meant nothing to him. This desire to defy his family was one that he couldn't understand. His whole life was about the good of the clan and ever since Sakura entered his life, he has been forced to reevaluate his loyalties. The loyalties that have been ingrained and etched into every fiber of his being and anything that Itachi did, missions, training, meetings, or marrying someone, was about pleasing and furthering the success of his clan.

But, now, Itachi had no idea what his purpose was and for the first time, Itachi felt some feeling rise up that accelerated his heart rate and made his fingers sweat. Frustrated by the lack of understanding the chemical flares happening in his body, Itachi spun around, chakra in his fist and punched the tree behind him, his whole fist going through the tree, and disappeared and went back to his apartment to nurse his cut up hand and his slightly hurt pride.

"Itachi, I need to know if you want out of this plan." Tsunade started at the young shinobi before her and sat back in her chair.

"Tsunade-sama, with all due respect, I don't see an alternative. This is my family and I need to do this."

"Itachi, we can come up with another plan… All we need is some time." Tsunade could hear the uncertainty in her own voice but she had a hard time justifying the death of a young shinobi like Itachi.

"There is no other option Tsunade. Anyone else and it would look like a conspiracy stemming from your office. I already explained that if you can create the poison to target male Uchihas then it will look like a murder-suicide." Tsunade knew that he was correct but couldn't help but feel pity for the man before her.

'No one deserves to have to take on this burden.' Tsunade was unable to full commit to this plan, seeking alternatives behind Itachi's back but found that she was agreeing with his reasoning. 'If I confront the Uchihas, they could easily turn people against me and cause a civil war and we cannot wait for them to attack for fear of them winning the fight. We have no idea if any other clans are involved in this coup d'état. Too many ifs, not enough certainty.' Tsunade's though process was cut off by Itachi.

"Although, I do need your help." Tsunade stared curiously at Itachi, wondering what the most powerful shinobi in the world could want her help for.

"Yes Itachi?"

"Yuki-san has come to me requesting that our marriage not be successful. She has a man in her life she desperately wants to marry. Is there anything you can do to stop this marriage?"

"Well, Yuki-san would have to be public about her distaste for this but if both parties agree, there is a document you can sign that nullifies the wishes of your parents but you both must have reasons for the nullification of the marriage. So, Yuki-san would have to make it public of her lover and you would need to have a justified reason for backing out. Your family will fight this, saying that you are the sole heir so they need you to carry on the name."

Sakura's face flashed before Itachi's eyes but he refused to speak up. "Tsunade-sama, could you at least put off the wedding till after the end of the ANBU exams and chunnin exams, forcing the wedding until right around the same time as our plan? Make an excuse that I am an intricate part of the planning and security. Tell my father that I must be available at all times and cannot be worried about marriage right now? Buy me a few months, at least until…" Itachi didn't want to use the word 'massacre' but it seemed only fitting.

"Itachi, I will call a meeting with Fugaku right away but I don't know how long I can put off this wedding. You might have to confront your father if you cannot find a legitimate reason to not marry Yuki."

"Isn't the fact that I feel nothing for her count for something?"

"To the Uchiha clan? No. Because that is your duty as heir, unless you want Sasuke to take over but that would ruin the whole reason you are deciding to kill yourself along with the other bastards in your family." Tsunade lifted a stack of papers and hit them against her desk once, signaling the end of the conversation. Itachi ran a hand through his bangs, sighed in frustration and promptly left the Hokage's office without another word spoken.

A few weeks had gone by and Sakura and Itachi were able to train with no incidents or complications. Time seemed to fly by and Sakura awoke one morning extremely nervous for some reason. Suddenly, she threw the blankets off her bed and ran to her calendar and realized that the date was December 1st.

'Holy shit, ANBU exams are only a week away.' Sakura froze in her place before realizing she had training with Itachi in an hour. Sakura got ready and left with about fifteen minutes before training should start and made it right on time and Itachi was already standing there, waiting for Sakura.

"Yo, Itachi! We only have a week till ANBU exams! I'm not freakin' ready! I am not strong enough! I haven't gotten better in the slightest, you asshole!" By this time, Sakura was poking Itachi in the chest and staring straight into his eyes. Itachi remained completely unfazed by her aggressive tendencies and looked to his left and nodded. Sakura whipped her head in that direction and gasped at the two figures standing a little out of view. When they stepped into the light, Sakura immediately recognized them as Hana Inuzuka and Genma Shiranui, Itachi's ANBU teammates.

"Sakura, today I have decided to ask Hana and Genma to spar with you so I can judge your progress." Sakura opened her mouth to pose a question but Itachi stopped her with an answer. "And no, you cannot take off your weights. Not yet." Sakura closed her mouth and let out a sigh of frustration. She turned slightly to face Hana and Genma before spinning around and walking to the other end of the training ground. When she reached the edge, she turned around, readied chakra into her fists and shifted her gaze between the three of them.

"Who am I facing first?" Itachi did not give an audible response and only jerked his head and suddenly Hana and Genma disappeared from sight. Before Sakura had time to react, she was ducking to dodge a high kick while simultaneously rolling to the right to dodge a punch. Sakura sheathed her kodachi and sprinted away from the two ANBU and disappeared into the trees, using the few seconds she had to develop a plan.

Sakura only had about eight seconds before felt Genma's chakra signature flicker, allowing her only a millisecond to jump straight down and use the lower level of the trees as cover. Sakura heard movement a head of her approaching at an alarming pace and headed straight towards it. She felt Genma behind her and smirked slightly. When Hana came into view, Sakura did the hand signs for Katon: Gokakyu no Jutsu. Suddenly, a massive ball of fire erupted from her lips, setting the trees on fire and creating smoke. This provided cover for Sakura and she jumped out of the trees and into the opening, leaving Genma and Hana to either run into each other or become slightly confused by the smoke.

"Shit." Suddenly, her plan started to go to hell. Genma performed a wind jutsu that Sakura did not know the name of and the smoke disappeared, leaving Hana and Genma standing on a branch smirking down at the kunoichi.

"Not good enough. I thought you said she was strong Itachi-taichou. She seems pretty weak to me." Hana crossed her arms, sat down on the branch and yawned into her hand. Sakura could feel her chakra surge and started to draw in the life force of the grass and animals around her. She created an aura around her and pushed the chakra to her feet and flash stepped behind Genma and Hana. Sakura sent a kick to Genma's side and connected, sending him flying into Hana. Neither shinobi was expecting the attack and promptly started to fall to the ground, trying to right their bodies before they hit the ground. But Sakura was too fast and flipped backwards and started to free fall to the ground. Right before Genma and Hana hit the ground, Sakura grabbed their shirts and spun the around and sent them flying into the clearing.

Sakura gave Genma and Hana a second to recover before sprinting towards them again, killing intent consuming her person. But, instead of anger showing on her face, Sakura had a cold and calculated look to her eyes, as if possessed by a stronger being. She looked to Itachi slightly, as she was running, and he was standing there, smirking at Sakura.

'Finally.' Itachi nodded, giving her permission to unleash everything she had on these two ANBU. Sakura halted and reached down to undo her weights but paused and stood back up. Instead, she sent chakra to her weights and added fifty more pounds to each weight and stood back up, her arms slightly trembling. Neither Genma nor Hana noticed this but Itachi's eyes widened slightly in response. But as soon as Sakura paused, she was sprinting towards the two ANBU, fists full of chakra, ready to beat them.

The battle waged on for almost an hour with no clear winner. Sakura's punches and kicks were heavier due to the weights but they also wore on her stamina. She lost some of her agility but whatever chakra she lost, she slowly sucked out of the nature surrounding her. Sakura's eyes widened slightly as Hana and Genma attacked and saw her opening. She sprinted towards Genma and sent a kick to his chest and connected, sending him flying back into a tree and knocking him unconscious. Unfortunately, Sakura timed her execution only a second too late and Hana sent a kick to her side and pounced on top of her, putting a kunai to her neck and effectively pinning her arms down with her calves. Both women were panting but Sakura was first to speak.

"I give." Hana smiled and stood up, offering Sakura a slight peace offering by giving her a hand. Sakura graciously placed her hand in Hana's, allowing to be pulled to her feet. Genma was groaning slightly and Sakura rushed to his side, placing her hands on his head and healing whatever damage had been done. Hana came over and started making fun of Genma and teased him for getting knocked out by a woman and a jounin.

"Well, she isn't gonna be jounin for long if she fights like that. Geez Sakura, did you have to hit me so hard?"

"Um, yeah, I did. I needed to knock you out so that I was only facing one opponent but I guess I timed it a second too late."

"Yeah but Sakura that was one of the toughest fights I have been in. And I spar with Itachi, a lot!" Hana clapped Sakura on the back and smiled brightly down at the petite girl, towering over her at almost five feet eleven inches.

"Hana is right Sakura; you will make one hell of an ANBU. Itachi has taught you well." At the mention of Itachi, Sakura spun around and saw that Itachi was only a few paces away. Sakura excused herself and walked over to the stoic Uchiha and kept her eyes trained on the ground. When she reached Itachi, she lifted her head to look at him directly in the eyes.

"Did I do well, Itachi?" Sakura couldn't believe how confident the words sounded, even though she was nervous to hear his answer. Itachi didn't answer right away, allowing himself the opportunity to study the face of the kunoichi in front of him. He chose his next words very carefully and looked at her lips when he said this.

"You have exceeded all of my expectations." Sakura gasped and blushed slightly at the intense stare that Itachi was giving her and licked her lips unconsciously. She watched Itachi's eyes narrow and flicker up to her eyes and all Sakura wanted to do was go on her toes and connect their lips but took a step backwards instead. She didn't speak a word; the non-verbal exchange consisted of only a nod on Sakura's part, signaling that she would be here tomorrow for a training session before disappearing with a puff of smoke.

Itachi released a breath he hadn't realized he was holding and noticed that Hana and Genma had watched the exchange.

"Itachi, you know that you can't—"

"I am well aware Genma. You needn't remind me, it is becoming hard enough."

"Itachi, haven't you thought of her not being your protégé? Take the risk and start courting her? She could work in the hospital and teach your children. With the smarts that you two have, your kids will be certifiable geniuses by the age of four." Itachi looked to Hana and narrowed his eyes.

"And if she or I die before that?" Itachi turned away and started to walk back towards town but Hana refused to let him have to last word.

"Then maybe your skills are too dangerous to pass on to the next generation." But before Itachi could respond, Hana disappeared from sight along with Genma, leaving Itachi to his own thoughts.

Sakura kicked a rock as she walked back to her apartment. The frustration was slowly building inside of Sakura but she refused to explode.

'I need this. I need to be in ANBU.' Sakura sighed trying to maintain the same conviction she once had but the desire was slowly slipping from her grasp and it was all because of Itachi. 'Stupid, stupid Uchiha. And now Sasuke has told me to leave Itachi alone even though he supposedly has something to do with a coup d'état… I wonder if I should go talk to Tsunade-shishou about this. She ought to know about this but Sasuke also told me not to talk to anyone about it… But I can't just sit back and watch this unfold…' Sakura was too confused to understand what was happening. When had her life become so confusing?

Sakura sighed and decided to go to Tsunade and discuss with her the information that Sasuke had shared with her but on her way to the Hokage's office, in an empty backstreet of Konoha, a figure grabbed Sakura around the waist and around her mouth and brought her into a dead end that was shadowed by the darkness. Sakura immediately started to struggle, grabbed at anything she could. Finally she grabbed onto the cloak of her attacker and managed to rip a piece from the cloth and held it in her grasp.

"Stop struggling or I will slit your throat." Sakura immediately ceased her efforts and took deep breaths to calm down and come up with a plan. "Listen very carefully kunoichi because I will only say this once. A certain group of shinobi is extremely interested in your skills and we want you to join us. At this moment, this is a request but if you decide to refuse us… It will no longer become voluntary." Sakura could feel the hot breath of her attacker rush down her shirt but Sakura could only pay attention to the feeling of fear that was washing over her. Unable to properly process the events occurring was enabling her ability to attack.

'Itachi…' Sakura closed her eyes, hoping that this man would leave her alone.

"We can give you skills beyond your imagination and power that will rival any Kage that has come before you. We will give you until the day before the ANBU exams to make your decision. If you have decided to join on your own free will, place a red flag outside of your bedroom window. If by the day before the ANBU exams, you do not give us the signal then we will come for you." Sakura felt the hand that was around her waist slowly crawl up under her shirt and brush over the underside of her breast. Only clad in a sports bra, Sakura could feel the bad of his thumb brush her. She stiffened in response and relaxed slightly when the man started to move his hand but started to panic when it started to move south. The man slipped his hand past the front of her pants and she could feel his hand on her.

"Your pussy is mine." The man rubbed Sakura's clit and ran a finger between her folds. Sakura bit her lip, refusing to give this man the pleasure of making a sound. Sakura's mind was screaming for her to fight back but she was absolutely frozen in place. Even though she tried to will the muscles in her body to move, she couldn't. Before Sakura could try to protest, she felt the pressure from her body disappear and she spun around to see only darkness.

And with that, the mysterious man disappeared and left Sakura standing there in the alley shaking from fear. She slowly made her way out into the middle of the street, crawling on only her hands and knees, desperately searching for anyone to help her.

'This is what civilian women must feel like.' Every muscle in Sakura's body was shaking and she could feel the air around her become thick, forcing her to take shallow breaths. She clenched her fists, making sure to keep the only object she could use to identify her attacker in her fists. She couldn't control the shaking as she felt her whole world crashing down around her and felt the tears slowly start to fall down her face.

'Someone has been watching me, knows where I live and dragged me into an alley and I was powerless to stop them. I hadn't even noticed anything and he acted as if I wasn't even a threat. Am I that powerless? Am I that weak?'

"Sakura?" Sakura snapped her head upwards and saw Itachi looking down at her. Sakura's lips curved upwards, almost in a smile before she felt the same power from the man who assaulted her and jolted backwards, looking around frantically.

"Show yourself you coward!" Sakura screamed at the top of her lungs, her voice cracking slightly as she choked on her tears. Itachi tried to approach her but Sakura was too frightened to understand friend from foe.

"I can't, don't—just don't come near me… I—what do you want from me?" Sakura's arms collapsed under her and she laid in the fetal position on the ground, clutching the piece of cloth in her hand. She kept mumbling to herself about 'weakness' and refused to acknowledge Itachi. Itachi slowly walked towards Sakura but refused to move quickly for fear of frightening the women on the ground. He pondered exactly whom she was shouting to earlier because while he felt a strong chakra signature, it was not abnormal for shinobi to wander the streets of Konoha because many were plagued with insomnia from nightmares of those they have killed.

'Did someone within the village attack Sakura?' Itachi crouched down, paused, and then picked Sakura up bridal style. He looked down at the broken girl in front of him and decided to bring her back to his apartment to figure out why she has been reduced to a shell of nothingness at the moment.

Itachi laid Sakura down on his couch and went to go make some tea, trying to find a remedy to calm to young girl down. When he came back into the room, Sakura had sat up and was starting at a piece of cloth she held in her hands. She made no recognition that Itachi had entered the room but once he sat down, Sakura couldn't help but tell him what happened. The words poured from her mouth and Itachi sat and sipped his tea while listening to the young woman's story.

"I was walking towards the Hokage's office after training and was suddenly pulled into an alley by a mysterious man. He covered my mouth and grabbed me around my waist. He told me that he was a part of an organization that was interested in my abilities. He—" Sakura hesitated in telling Itachi about his promise of power but calmed down a little more and started speaking again. "He promised me unimaginable power and great success. He told me I wouldn't be weak and that I would surpass the Kage's before me… He said that I have before the ANBU exams to make my decision and if I don't… that they will come for me." Sakura desperately wanted to tell someone that this man touched her inappropriately but she didn't want to face the judgment of her peers. The tears threatened to fall again but shook her head, trying to stop them. Itachi sat there very quietly, not saying a single word, just looking at Sakura. He knew that she was hiding something because he knew that this encounter would not leave Sakura so shaken.

"Is it okay if I ask some questions?"

"There is no guarantee I will answer them." Sakura responded very quickly, whispering her response. Itachi nodded and took a breath.

"What is your decision at this moment?"

"I will not join." Sakura's voice quivered with uncertainty but Itachi refused to comment.

"If you decided to go, what would your reason be?"

"I don't want to be weak."

"Sakura," She snapped her head up, the seriousness in Itachi's voice making her slightly worried, "why were you going to the Hokage's office?" Sakura froze in her place and looked down at her hands, fiddling with the piece of cloth. Suddenly, Itachi's arms were on either side of Sakura's head and he towered over her.

"Itachi?" Sakura looked up into Itachi's eyes and watched his sharingan spin.

"Sakura, why were you going to the Hokage's office? It's a simple question and do not try to lie to me." Itachi's face was close to Sakura's but the last thing on either of their minds was an intimate moment.


"Tell me NOW!" Sakura jumped at Itachi yelling, having never heard that tone of voice before.

"I—I… I can't." Sakura looked away and Itachi pushed himself backwards and ran a hand through his hair.

"Sakura, if you went to her for a reason I believe, I must talk with you about it."

"Why would I tell you anything?" Sakura stood up and pushed Itachi slightly getting in his face. "You have kept everything at an arm's length from me. All I want is to help and you keep pushing me away! What do you want from me?"

"I don't know!" Itachi turned away from Sakura, cursing under his breath at letting his emotions get the better of him. "Enough is enough Sakura. This cannot continue. Please, excuse yourself from my presence and report to the Hokage of what has happened." Itachi turned back around and stiffened as Sakura closed the space between them. Sakura hesitated for a moment and started heading towards the door and reached for the handle but before she left, with her back still to Itachi, she decided to gamble.

"Itachi. I will tell you why I was going to visit the Hokage under one condition." Sakura refused to face Itachi, knowing that she wouldn't be able to give the condition if she was staring at him.

"Kiss me." Sakura turned around and looked at Itachi. She could see the inner battle going on in his mind whether or not to take her up on her offer.

"Sakura, I cannot do this." Sakura felt the pain of rejection well up in her chest and the tears fill in her eyes.

"I understand. Goodnight Itachi." Sakura opened the door and was surprised to see Genma standing there, who was equally surprised to see Sakura standing there. Politely excusing herself, Sakura dashed around the ANBU and down the stairs, trying to flee from her sadness.

Genma looked up and saw Itachi running his hand through his hair. The genius sighed and collapsed onto his couch in frustration.

"What Genma?" Itachi could feel a vein pulsing in his forehead, his anger being directed towards the shinobi standing in the doorway.

"I was talking with Tsunade when an ANBU came in and said there was some rogue shinobi running around our lands. She wants us in her office tomorrow morning. This is just a scouting mission so shouldn't take more than a day or two." Itachi nodded and closed his eyes and when he didn't hear the door close he looked back towards Genma.

"Do you need something?" Itachi couldn't help the anger flow through his words and Genma proceeded to take the hint.

"Nope, see ya tomorrow." Itachi sighed as he heard the door close, happy to be rid of all company. When he opened his eyes, his focus was drawn towards the piece of cloth Sakura left on his table from drinking his tea. He picked up the piece of cloth and studied it before putting it in his vest pocket. Knowing that these next few days were not going to be fun, Itachi tried to go to sleep early but quickly found himself thinking about the request of the pink haired kunoichi.

'God damn it.' Itachi lay on his back, arms behind his head, staring at the ceiling. He turned to his left and saw that the clock read 4:32 AM. Itachi was not even able to meditate because every time he closed his eyes, images of Sakura and that request of hers plagued his mind.

"Fuck!" Itachi let his emotions get the better of him as he allowed the curse word to escape his lips. "Why am I allowing this one girl destroy everything I've worked for. Maybe I do need to call off the protégé thing so I can separate myself from Sakura and allow her to find someone better than me." Itachi could stop the feeling that welled up in his chest at the thought of Sakura being with another man. Itachi didn't understand what he was feeling, only that it felt like his heart was being ripped out of his chest and he had a sudden urge to strangle any man.

'Is this… jealousy?' The concept was so foreign to Itachi and he could quite grasp the idea. He rare felt emotions, or he wasn't allowed to, 'so why was this suddenly happening? Was it because of Sakura? Or my own weaknesses showing? Is training Sakura making me weaker?' Itachi let out a groan of frustration and decided that he needed some fresh air. Getting dressed for his meeting with Tsunade, Itachi shut and locked his door, knowing he would not be returning for a few days.

Itachi was tired and soaking wet from the days of rain Konoha and its surrounding area was experiencing. Because this was a scouting mission and it was raining, making a fire was near impossible. Luckily they hadn't spotted anything or anyone in two days and they made plans to return to the village that night.

Itachi looked down at the cloth is in his hands and studied it one more time, trying to find a clue as to who it belonged to. He wanted to rip apart the person who dared threaten his protégé. He clenched his fist in frustration but released the tension in his body with a sigh. The base color of the cloak was black and this particular piece had a white stripe that was slightly curved and the rest was red. The white looked like an outline of an object that was red but Itachi could not make out exactly what the object was with only this piece.

Itachi quickly pocketed the cloth and made a scan of the area. No one had breached his traps but if the shinobi was an upper level ninja, then they might be skilled enough to pass some of them. Suddenly, Itachi felt an uneasy feeling wash over him and decided to go out and search. He kicked Genma and Hana awake and they were immediately on their feet.

"I have a feeling. Go search and come back in fifteen minutes. Code is: The hunter hunts but what happens if the hunter becomes hunted?" The other two nodded and with a blink of the eye, they were all gone, searching their respective areas.

Ten minutes had passed and Itachi hadn't seen or felt a thing except for the gut wrenching feeling that was grabbing at the pit of his stomach. Suddenly, a burst of chakra was coming from his right and suddenly disappeared but Itachi already had their location and they were currently running away. Itachi sprinted towards the chakra signature and pulled his mic out from his pouch.

"Genma, Hana. I found something. Follow my chakra." Itachi allowed for his chakra to flare for only twenty seconds before Hana and Genma were flanking him.

"He is about fifty yards ahead. Approach with caution for we do not know his skills." Itachi nodded and Hana and Genma spread out to try and stop the unknown shinobi in his tracks. Itachi pushed chakra into his feet, increasing his speed. He suddenly saw the tip of a black cloak and threw a kunai, effectively pinning the man to a tree for only a second but it was enough time for Itachi to catch up to the man and tackle him. Suddenly, he found himself with a knee on the sternum of a man below him. Itachi grabbed the man around the throat but was forced off when the unknown shinobi kneed Itachi in the back. Itachi did a front tumble and quickly ready himself with a kunai in one hand and his other prepared to attack or defend.

"Unlucky for me, I got the Uchiha on my ass. Yeesh, my day couldn't get any worse. Well, Uchiha, what are we gonna do now?" Itachi studied the man in front of him and made sure to note every feature for a future description, in case he was to get away. The man had the appearance of a fish. He stood at almost seven feet tall and was completely blue. As strange as his appearance was, Itachi refused to look fazed by this man and held his ground. When he smiled, his teeth were pointy and his eyes were small circles, way too small to be properly proportional to his face. He had a large sword strapped to his back that was wrapped in bandages but the interesting part about this man was that, besides the mark Itachi left in his cloak, the man had a sizable rip on his cloak. Itachi reached into his pocket and pulled out the piece of cloth that Sakura left in his apartment and it was a perfect match.

"You attacked Sakura?" Itachi could feel his chakra surging off him in waves, anger flooding into every inch of his body. He could feel his fingers become numb with anticipation and his index finger twitched.

"The little pink-haired bitch? Ya that was me. What'ya gonna do about it?" The shark-nin grabbed the hilt of his sword and pulled it over his shoulder. The sword looked massive but the man swung it around as if it was as light as a feather.

"I'm going to kill you." Itachi felt Hana and Genma drop to the ground behind him and he signaled for them to move to the shinobi's left a right. He saw the ninja tense, realizing that he suddenly had become outmatched. His eyes suddenly started darting around and Itachi took his opportunity and attacked. He sped forward, faster than anyone could trace and sent a kick to the shinobi's stomach and sent him flying backwards into a tree, effectively knocking the wind out of him. Itachi stood his ground and watched as the shinobi realized that he had a few broken ribs.

"What is your name? I want to know your name before I kill you." Itachi waited for a response but grew impatient and charged forward, grabbing the shinobi around his neck and pinned him against the tree. His sharingan was spinning with anger as he forced the ninja to look into his eyes. Before the ninja passed out from Itachi's Tsukuyomi, he whispered his name.

"K—K—Kisame Hoshigaki." Itachi kept squeezing, even after the man-shark became unconscious.

"Itachi! Let go! We have to bring him back!" Genma grabbed Itachi's wrist and pulled back, trying to get Itachi to let go. Hana quickly joined in and they were able to successfully pry Itachi's fingers from around Kisame's throat. Itachi watched as the shinobi's body dropped to the ground in a heap and spun around, his back facing Genma and Hana.

"Genma, Hana, we are taking him back to the village. Both of you carry him back and I will make sure that we have a safe trip back."

"Hai, sir!" And so they started back to the village. Itachi in front and Genma and Hana struggling with the seven foot tall, unconscious shinobi in their arms and as Itachi saw the gates in the distance, he looked back at Kisame and glared. He wanted that man awake for questioning as soon as possible so he could get some answers.

"We managed to capture the shinobi. He is with Ibiki-san and Anko-san. This is also the man that attacked Sakura." Tsunade's pen stopped with the mention of Sakura and looked up to Itachi.

"Sakura was attacked?" Itachi frowned, upset that Sakura did not go to the Hokage about her attack

"Yes, speak to her about it." He refused to elaborate because he was more concerned with the fact that they had a prisoner in their possession that needed to be punished and interrogated.

"Itachi, you may not go near the prisoner. You are too close."

"That is unacceptable." Tsunade's pen halted on the paper she was signing and looked up at Itachi.

"Are you disobeying a direct order?"

"Let me talk to him. It's the least this village could do for me." Itachi stared at Tsunade who sat back in her chair, in defeat.

"Fine but go get rest. The ANBU exams have officially been scheduled for four days. It is only a combat test against current ANBU. They will have two fights in one day. You may inform Sakura of this. You cannot talk to the prisoner until tomorrow evening after training with Sakura" Tsunade dismissed Itachi and he turned with a frustrating groan and disappeared before he reached the door.

Sakura jolted out of bed when she heard pounding on her door. She looked over to her clock and read that it was almost three thirty in the morning.

"What the…" The pounding continued, more forcibly than the last set so Sakura forced her body to move and headed to the door. Flinging it open, she was presented with the sight of Itachi, who just happened to be soaking wet from the rain.

"Sakura…" Itachi was panting and struggling to speak. He calmed his breathing before running a hand through his hair which was now free from the confines of a hair tie.

"Yes Itachi?" Sakura could feel the butterflies start to form in her stomach as Itachi's gaze felt like it was burning her skin. She curled her toes as the desire she felt for the man before her started to pool below her bellybutton. She could feel her finger tips become numb and her skin tingled with anticipation and desire.

"We caught the man who grabbed you." Itachi leaned on her door frame, feeling the fatigue wash over his body from hours of training in the rain. Sakura cocked her head to the side, noticing the quiver in his muscles and the slight flush that rose to his cheeks. Sakura, instinctually, raised her hand to Itachi's forehead but before she could connect, Itachi pulled back, as if her touch would burn him.

"Itachi, you look sick. How long have you been in the rain?" Sakura went to grab Itachi's arm to lead him into her apartment but, again, Itachi recoiled. Sakura became frustrated with the man before her and decided he was wasting her time. "Fine, Itachi, if you want to be this way that is fine by me." Sakura proceeded to slam the door in Itachi's face but as she approached her bedroom, she heard a thud outside her door and could only assume that Itachi had collapsed. When Sakura opened the door, Itachi was still conscious but the fever was overcoming his body and slowly forcing his limbs to shut down, to allow that energy to be used towards fighting off sickness.

Sakura sighed and lifted Itachi from his spot and placed him on her bed. Sakura grabbed a kunai and started to remove the wet clothes from Itachi's body. When she had him stripped down to his boxers, she fished around the bottom of her closet, hoping to find a shirt and shorts that one of her teammates might have left at her house. Finding a shirt and pants of Naruto, Sakura redressed the Uchiha, trying not to pay attention to the almost naked man on her bed, who was currently on the verge of passing out. When Itachi was dressed, Sakura placed her hands on his head and started the healing process. Knowing that even the most skilled medics couldn't heal the common cold, Sakura knew that this fever was more dangerous than Itachi realized and knew that if she didn't do something, Itachi could be in danger.

Working through the early hours of the morning, Sakura could feel her eyelids become heavy and her chakra start to fluctuate. She kept drawing more and more chakra from her reserves and only stopped when she felt Itachi's fever break. As soon as he stopped shivering and regained consciousness, Sakura collapsed beside him, never hearing Itachi whisper his thanks to her.

When Sakura woke the next morning, she found herself in her bed where Itachi should have been.

'Of course he wouldn't stick around.' Sakura sighed and ran her hand through her hair as she sat up, her back resting against the backboard of her bed. Rubbing the sleep from her eyes, Sakura blinked a few times before looking at the clock, reading 11:34 AM. 'Only a few hours of sleep, not terrible.' Sakura grasped her hands together and lifted them over her head, stretching the sore muscles she acquired from healing Itachi most of the night.

"If that asshole gets sick because he left…" Sakura didn't finish the statement as a massive yawn occurred. Deciding that she lay in bed for long enough, Sakura decided to get ready for the day and do some shopping before her training session with Itachi.

Sakura smiled as the warm sunshine hit her face, unusual for the normally cold and dreary winters of Konoha. Sakura shivered as the wind decided to remind her that while the sun was out, winter was still here. Sakura wrapped her arms around her body, trying to shield herself from the cold and walked briskly to town, trying to warm up her body from the persistent breeze.

Sakura stopped by different food markets, gathering food for the next week or so. Sakura never bought an abundant amount of food at once, even though it sometimes proved to be cheaper, because she could be called on at any moment and did not want to come back to a refrigerator filled with rotten food. Sakura shopped for about two hours and made it back to her apartment without an incident.

'Everyone must be on a mission, inside or training.' Sakura felt a sense of sadness come over her at thought of not seeing anyone while she was out. It would have been the only time in the next few days she would be able to see anyone. Sakura sighed as she put away her groceries and when she was done, she heard a quiet knock on her door and threw the plastic bags away as she approached the door.

"Hello Itachi, glad to see you alive. It would be a shame if you died before the ANBU exams." Sakura left the door open and turned her back to Itachi and continued to put away some clothes she purchased. Leaving Itachi to his own devices, Sakura knew that if what he had to say was important, he would wait. After saving his life last night, Sakura felt it was the least he could do. When she walked back into the main living room, she noticed Itachi was in the kitchen, preparing a pot of tea. Sakura smiled and walked into the kitchen, sitting on the counter, waiting for Itachi to speak.

"My actions last night were reckless." It wasn't an apology but Sakura knew it was as close as she was going to get, Itachi admitting he had a lapse in judgment.

"And this morning." Itachi looked at Sakura confused by her response before turning back to his tea. "Your actions this morning were reckless as well."

"Do not presume that because of what I said means you have the right to chastise as you would a child." Itachi never looked at Sakura to speak to her but she could hear the slight hitch in his voice. Not many would be able to hear such a slight but Sakura had been around so much that the subtleties in his actions and words gave Itachi away sometimes.

"Whatever Itachi, I am so done with this shit." Sakura hopped off the counter and proceeded to lie down on her couch with the back of her knees resting on the armrest and her legs dangling.

She heard the 'clink' of mugs and assumed Itachi was making tea for her as well. Sakura heard Itachi's footsteps and pulled herself upright and allowed Itachi some room to sit.

"What do you want Itachi?" Sakura grabbed the mug and blew on the liquid, trying to cool the liquid down faster.

"As you know, the ANBU exams are only a few days away. Tsunade has informed me of the format."

"It's not the same as always? Practical and the physical." Itachi shook his head and put down his mug.

"No. I have heard from ANBU that Tsunade is changing it because she believes that Konoha's ANBU have become… soft." Sakura snorted slightly and mumbled something. Itachi looked at her curiously, silently asking her to repeat the words she said.

"I said, not the ANBU I know." Itachi allowed a slight twitch of his lip but masked it immediately.

"Anyway, this time, you will be forced to fight two ANBU members in the span of only a few hours. Each ANBU will be fresh while you will have no time to rest." Sakura nodded and frowned slightly.

"Will I have to fight you?" Sakura felt the hesitation in the room, waiting for Itachi's response.


'Not a yes, not a no.' Sakura sighed in frustration and put her tea down, still extremely hot.

"I hope not." Sakura couldn't stop the words as they spilled from her mouth.

"Oh? And why is that?" Sakura wanted to make some snarky remark such as, 'because I do not want to embarrass you in front of all your friends' but decided to be unusually truthful to the Uchiha.

"'Cause I can't beat you." Sakura took another sip of her tea and shivered as the warm liquid slid down her throat and into her stomach. It was so hot; Sakura could trace its path up to a certain point. She heard Itachi stand but refused to look at him until he spoke.

"I doubt you will beat anyone with that attitude." Sakura's grip on her cup tightened until it shattered, spilling hot liquid on her hands.

"Shit!" Sakura stood up and walked to the kitchen, immediately putting her left hand under cold water, feeling the burn start to form. Before the burn was too bad, Sakura put healing chakra into her right, unscathed hand and healed the burns. She could hear Itachi in the other room picking up the shattered pieces and sighed. Frustrated, Sakura kept chakra gathered in her hand and punched her cabinet, her hand going straight through but avoided any objects within. Retracting her hand, Sakura looked at the damage done and noticed her knuckles were bloody and filled with splinters.

"You need to keep your emotions in check."

"Don't think that because I said that to you, you can chastise me as you would a child." Sakura retorted, using Itachi's words against him. Sakura walked away from Itachi and back into the living room, running her hand through her hair.

"I mean not to chastise, just to instruct." Sakura felt herself become angrier at Itachi by the second.

"Only you can make me feel this…" Sakura turned around and looked into Itachi's eyes and narrowed them slightly, "angry." Before Sakura could blink, Itachi was behind her, whispering into her ear.

"Use that anger. Harness it and use it to your advantage." Sakura could not help her body's movements as she leaned back into Itachi's body, seeking the warmth he provided. Itachi visibly stiffened at the contact but eventually relaxed and placed his hands on Sakura hips. Sakura allowed her head to tip backwards onto Itachi's shoulders, exposing her neck to Itachi's gaze.

Before this got out of control, Itachi stepped backwards and used his hands to push Sakura away from his body. As if that snapped her from a daze, Sakura suddenly gathered her surroundings and blushed furiously, criticizing herself for allowing a lapse in judgment.

"I will take my leave." Itachi started towards the door but Sakura stopped him with her voice.

"Itachi, wait. We need to talk about this, like adults." Sakura knew this was the last conversation she wanted to have but it was definitely necessary.

"After the exams." And with that, Itachi left and Sakura threw another punch at her wall, this time foregoing the chakra.

During the next few days, Sakura and Itachi rarely spoke unless Itachi was correcting her on her mistakes. Eventually, it was the day before the ANBU exams and Sakura arrived at the training ground to find Itachi sitting and meditation.

Sakura sat down across from Itachi and assumed the position. Almost an hour had passed and Sakura couldn't focus her mind.

"Part of your problem is that you attack with your emotions, you must remain calm and focused. This whole time, I have tried to force you into harnessing your emotions, now I want you to force the emotions from your body and use your mind to best your opponents." Sakura sighed and started taking deep breaths, focusing her thoughts on nothing and yet everything. Sakura allowed her mind to become empty. All thoughts of ANBU exams and Itachi fled her mind as if the calm chased them away.

"Feel that? Replicate that when you are fighting. Allow your instincts to take over and do not become emotionally charged. I have taught you the jutsus and the techniques, now your fate is in your hands." Itachi stood up and offered his hand to Sakura who took it and allowed her body to be pulled to an erect position.

Jumping backwards, away from Itachi, Sakura took deep breaths and brought back that feeling that she had when she was meditating and opened her eyes. Itachi inwardly smirked as he saw the cold and calculating eyes of a true killer appear on Sakura's face. Itachi pulled a kunai from his pouch and assumed a fighting stance, as did Sakura. For a while, Sakura and Itachi just stood, occasionally moving left or right to try and catch the other off guard. And then, for the first time in their spars, Itachi attacked first.

Normally, Sakura's eyes would widen with shock and she would feel fear fill her body but not now. Sakura felt at peace because she was able to see Itachi approach. She sidestepped as Itachi sent a punch towards her face and turned to face him. Before Itachi could react, Sakura sent a kick flying upwards, trying to catch Itachi's chin. But failed to connect when Itachi turned his head to the side, and felt her show graze his ear and he immediately pushed chakra to his feet and charged at Sakura. She also pushed chakra into her feet but used that to propel her body into the hair and leaped over Itachi, doing a single flip before landing, facing Itachi, and charging at his back.

Never had Sakura felt this calm and collected as she fought Itachi. Then, Itachi and Sakura came face to face as the exchanged punches and kicks in a purely taijutsu battle, at the moment at least. Sakura was able to dodge every punch and kick, as was Itachi, but the difference was Sakura felt as though she knew how Itachi was going to attack before he did. It was a strange sensation and suddenly, a twig snapped in the distance which distracted Sakura for a second, losing her concentration on keeping calm and Itachi took advantage and punched her in the stomach, sending her about ten feet backwards.

"Fuck." Sakura remained on the ground, trying to catch her breath and cursed again under her breath.

"Good. Again." Sakura stood and got back into her 'trance,' as she liked to call it, and they went again.

And again, and again, and again. Itachi and Sakura kept fighting from seven at night to almost dawn. Sakura was covered in bruises and Itachi had a few from Sakura occasionally besting Itachi but the victory was short lived because her excitement would distract her and he would take advantage of it.

After one fight, at about 4 AM, only ten hours before the ANBU exams commenced, Sakura stayed on the ground and caught her breath.

"You would be able to beat me once or twice if you did not get so excited at the idea of landing a hit." Itachi could tell Sakura was becoming frustrated

"But it's an accomplishment to land a hit on the great Uchiha Itachi though."

"Not for you. Not anymore. Sakura, you are a powerful shinobi, have confidence. This time, when you hit me, if you lose your focus, I will pull your name from the ANBU exams." Sakura's eyes widened but she stood, centered her mind and assumed a neutral stance. Itachi followed her example and waited only a second before attacking her. Again, Sakura could feel Itachi coming at her, but slower than normal. Suddenly, Sakura drew her kodachi and was able to block Itachi's attack. Sparks flew as blades collided but Sakura's gaze never wavered and her chakra never flared. She remained perfectly calm as she pushed Itachi back using chakra. The slight push allowed her room to press forward an attack using her kodachis. Strike after strike resulted in the collision of blades. Sakura pushed Itachi back and did a spin, bringing her kodachis upwards in an arch out of the spin and the force was enough to force Itachi to retreat slightly.

Sakura sheathed her kodachi and did a series of hand signs and whispered the name of the jutsu, Katon: Gokakyu no Jutsu, before a huge blast came from her lips, heading straight towards Itachi. Itachi dodged the blast and cast a genjutsu upon Sakura. Sakura looked around and noticed the slight changes in the environment, details that a shinobi casting a quick genjutsu would not think about remembering. Sakura put her hands together and whispered the release but took too much time and Itachi was already two feet away, his fist clenched and retracted slightly.

Sakura did not have enough time to dodge the punch, instead, she allowed Itachi to punch her but stood firm, feeling her cheek bone cave under the pressure and break. Not even allowing a wince, Sakura took advantage of the proximity and delivered an uppercut that connected and sent Itachi into the air. As instructed, Sakura didn't allow her focus to waver and shot upwards. As Itachi tried to right his body in the air, Sakura was already there and kicked Itachi in the stomach, sending him into a tree. The wind was knocked out of Itachi temporarily but he stood quickly and winced as he tried to straighten his body. Sakura didn't allow him to dwell on the injury for too long, her own injury extremely painful as well.

Sakura sprinted forward and threw her shoulder into Itachi, knocking him the ground. Itachi used her momentum to flip her over him and he rolled backwards, towards Sakura and when he came out of the roll, spun and tried to punch her. Sakura ducked under the punch and again, put her shoulder into Itachi, hitting his broken ribs for the second time in only seconds, sending a burst of pain through Itachi's body. Itachi landed on his back, Sakura above him. He flipped them over, regaining the advantage but Sakura, preparing for this move, used her flexibility to wrap her legs around Itachi, using her thighs to crush his ribs even more. The pain made Itachi's arms cave and gave Sakura the opportunity to flip them over again and drew a kunai from her pouch and held it to his neck.

They both remained still, panting from the exercise until Sakura realized the implications of what occurred.

"I… won?" Itachi let out a small grunt, pushing Sakura off him as he held his rips. He tried to sit up further but Sakura crushed his ribs so much that pieces of bone now floated amongst his muscles, an injury even the strongest shinobi couldn't stand.

"Allow me to heal you." Sakura brought healing chakra to her hands and easily repaired the injury. Although it took almost five minutes to find every piece of bone and make sure it was constructed again correctly, Sakura sat back and healed her cheek bone injury while Itachi stood and brushed off his clothes. Sakura stood and faced Itachi who only spoke three words to her.

"You are ready."


Hey guys, sorry for such a delay in update. My chapters are long and school makes it really challenging to write. I try to write every day but exams make that difficult.

Thank you for all the reviews. I love getting them! If you guys have advice, I am always open to ideas.

Thanks for reading!