Sasuke sighed slowly, his eyes focusing on his targets. Six trees, six knives.

Precision can be key.

He leapt off the branch, focusing deeply on his own energy and his surroundings. It felt as if he'd paused in midair; his crimson eyes shot open, he flicked his wrist as he spun in a circle in the air before he landed on his feet. The sound of the blades burying themselves in the tree dully echoed. He straightened up, smirking to himself as he noted each knife had succeeded in hitting the target on the tree.

Pein had been urging him to practice as much as he could lately. The elder had occasionally spent time training Sasuke, teaching and improving skills and knowledge. Sasuke was sure Pein had noticed his power growing while Madara was here, but he had said nothing about it. He had started off bitter towards Pein, while knowing the Vampire had been the one to find him when Hidan had attacked him he still had resented the fact that Pein had not helped him or protected him from Deidara.

It had taken weeks for Sasuke to learn and truly understand how a clan worked. Or rather, how his worked. The Akatsuki were old fashioned, treating each other like enemies and even prisoners on occasion. Pein couldn't argue against what another clan member wished, he would be attacked. Konan suffered from his mistakes as well, as the others knew of their relationship and would instantly use her against him. It was a harsh cycle.

Pein had said it was becoming all but impossible to detect Sasuke's emotions now, he had improved greatly in concealing them and not allowing others to feed from them.

He began walking down the pathway home, he had spent over an hour with training. Deidara was edgy lately, the gash on Sasuke's stomach reminded him not to spend too much time away. He'd come home late two nights ago to a drunken and angered Deidara, who had told him he needed to stop disappearing so much. His job was to fulfill Deidara's needs, not prance around the forest. The chains around him were continuing to tighten.

He inhaled slowly as he weaved his way through the trees. The forest calmed him, it was a safe haven for him. He couldn't recall how long he had been here, it had been over a year he was certain. It felt strange to think that, knowing he hadn't been keeping track of time. How old was he, now? Seventeen? What was today?

He shook his head to erase his inner questions. Immortality made time meaningless. Hundreds of years could go by and age would be long forgotten. Who cared about age, when after you turn into an adult there's really nothing exciting about turning another year older.

He found himself reaching his hand up, fingers tracing the seal. People kept animals in cages, he'd heard animal activists shouting "would you do this to another person?" He could truthfully tell them that yes, some monsters would. They had done much worse to him than merely eradicating his freedom. And they had done this to others… What went through the mind of someone that made them think hurting one of their own kind was okay? That raping and torturing anyone was okay?

He was entranced with his thoughts, when he finally caught on to the conversation nearby it almost made him gasp. He froze in his steps, turning his head to try to focus better on the words. He narrowed his eyes. "I told you to take off your clothes, woman. There's nothing else you're good for, I don't know why you're so damn stuck up." A voice cackled, he listened as a female voice made a sound of pain.

Sasuke immediately recognized Konan's voice, he pieced the male's voice to be Kisame's. He spent time avoiding the older Vampire, as he had something else mixed into his bloodline, Sasuke was certain. He was menacing and had no qualms with murder, either, Sasuke preferred to avoid challenging him. But this time, he wouldn't leave someone vulnerable to be victimized if he could do something to stop it.

He broke out of the shadows, catching both Vampires off guard. He rammed into Kisame's side, hearing the elder grunt as he lost his breath from the hit. He was forced to release Konan's wrist, the blue haired female turned her amber eyes to Sasuke in horror. He stood in front of her, the crimson in his eyes flashing as the sun's rays flashed over them. "Sasuke don't, he'll kill you!" She murmured to him, he didn't look at her. "Run. Go find Pein." She hesitated, truly not wanting to leave Sasuke alone. "Run!" He told her urgently as Kisame faced them again, a sneer on his face.

Konan left, the breeze silencing her as she ran away from the open field. "You're gonna pay for that, you brat." Kisame slurred, Sasuke realized he'd been drinking. Not a surprise, really. "You're probably loose as a penny whore, aren't you? You're so eager to take her place." Kisame snickered, pulling the intimidatingly large sword, Samehada, off of his back. Sasuke swallowed, shifting into a defensive stance, ready to dodge should Kisame decide to attack. "Drunkard." He muttered back in disgust, wiping the smug smirk off Kisame's face.

"I'll teach you a lesson, brat." Kisame snarled, lunging forward with Samehada. Sasuke had to flip backwards to avoid being struck, ducking onto his knees and leaning backwards as Kisame swung the sword again. He rose up and landed a side-kick, cursing as it didn't seem to affect Kisame. He gasped as he was grabbed by his leg and thrown across the field. He dug his nails into the earth, thinking quickly he did a heel kick to knock Kisame off of his feet. The elder rebalanced himself quickly, bringing his sword down quickly where Sasuke was still crouched on the ground.

The younger twisted over, pushing himself up. He knew before entering this battle he had a slim chance of winning, Kisame was trained and experienced far past any level that Sasuke was. But he was too far into the fight to stop. He sidestepped the next swing, raising his fist and landing a hit on Kisame's side. He gasped as Kisame apparently anticipated the attack, swinging his left hand and backhanding Sasuke. The strike sent him onto the ground, his vision spotting. Move. Move, damn it!

He jerked himself off the ground, stumbling slightly. He braced his arms up to block a kick that knocked him back against a tree. He tried to move, to duck, but his body seemed caught in a completely different world and wouldn't function with his brain's commands. He saw the sword coming towards him, he sidestepped away from the attack as it came closer, time stilling to the point he could hear his own heartbeat.

He wasn't fast enough.

He felt the blade tear through his flesh, hot blood beginning to drench the ground. Had Kisame hit that deep? He couldn't feel anything for seconds, minutes, hours it seemed as he started to collapse onto the ground as if he'd forgotten how to stand. He heard a rushing sound in his ears as time snapped back into place, the pain striking him like a bomb.

A short scream ricocheted off the trees like a bullet, lined with pain as he hit the ground. He covered his stomach with his hands, the large gash bleeding profusely, he had nothing to stop it with. The pain worsened as he pressed down, trying to hinder the blood loss. He felt dizziness seeping into his mind, spots flashing in his vision. He vaguely heard Kisame laugh darkly, saying something that was blurred out by his senses. He looked up, watching his only chance of getting out of this forest alive walk away from him.

The sword was of a unique breed; if it struck you, it could suck your power away, leaving you vulnerable and unable to heal yourself. His resolve to fight this rapid blood loss began to dwindle as his life source began to deplete, leaving him weak and unstable. Through ringing in his ears, he heard an unfamiliar woman yelling at him. "Sasuke, stay awake! Sasuke please, focus on my voice! Stay with me!"

Who was trying to fight his descent into peaceful slumber? He felt hands tearing off the remains of his shirt, muttering incomprehensibly to him as she placed her cold hands painfully over the large wound. "Stay awake! Fight it!"

I promised… But I can't…

The shadows encased him, poisoning his consciousness with darkness.