Crows – an Itachi & Sakura story
Disclaimer: Naruto and all its characters belong to Masashi Kishimoto.
A/N: No worries, Equinox is still in progress and I'm still working on it. My muse just decided to go rampant over this one and so I figured I could type up a prologue for you guys to enjoy and hopefully placate my imagination for the time being!
Sometimes, I worry I made the wrong choice. The council members have reassured me over and over again though, that I am right.
My way of thinking was correct and the actions I'm about to take are what is necessary to further our cause.
Yet as I look upon the village at night, I can't help but wonder… am I wrong?
Haruno Sakura crept along the ragged fence, her boots scraping the dry ground. She fell into a crouch, patiently waiting for the opportune moment to pass through the gates. As the door that led to the outpost cabin on her left slammed shut, she sighed, and turned to pick her way across the furrows and pathways, weaving through large heaps of leaves. A breeze passed, brittle leaves whorled into frenzied tornadoes before being deposited on the ground. The late autumn air was cool, but winters were generally mild in the Fire Country.
Estates rolled in the distance—each one walled, manicured and well-guarded. There were far fewer dots of lights in the city than there were in Konoha, she noted. The shadowed buildings loomed in the night around her as she fell into a crouch just inside the city's gates. She leaned against the wooden railings along the bridge that would lead her into now, unsure whether to continue or retreat. Some days, it felt like a fool's errand. This was one of them.
Taking a moment longer to listen to the grating squall of cicadas in the forest and bushes surrounding her, Sakura inhaled and walked from the bridge into the large sprawling city. The city smelled rank to her, nothing like the fresh scent of rain and forest that would always surround Konoha. Most of the buildings had been built from stone blocks with tile roofs. The structures were packed together closely together, making them seem squat despite the fact that they were generally five stories high.
Sakura watched the first downy flakes of snow drift through the air. The puffs descended upon the grim city, drifting in corners, blowing in the breeze and curling in miniscule whirlwinds over the cobblestones. Capturing one of the flakes, Sakura eyed it momentarily before rubbing her fingers together. Snow was still a strange concept to her. She kept her head down and pulled up her cloak's hood against the falling snow.
The tenements and shops were uniform in appearance, but Sakura had long since memorized the name of the establishment she needed to find. It didn't take her long to locate the crimson kanji etched into a simple wooden sign. Pushing open the door, Sakura entered, the door closing behind her with a loud bang.
The man behind the bar studied her for a moment, his pudgy face incredulous. Finally, he looked away, muttering to himself. She simply ignored his silent protestations and walked up to the bar, picking a stool in the middle.
Fear was etched into his face, as well as anger. It made for an interesting combination, Sakura decided, slowly and softly drumming her fingertips on the counter to draw his attention. He seemed poised to run at any given moment. Shinobi in this part of the country were rare to be found and not exactly the most welcomed tourists.
"Listen," he hissed, finding his courage. "One drink, then you're out, understand?"
Raising an elegant eyebrow, Sakura stared at him, unimpressed. "I'm not here to start a war."
The man flinched.
'Bad choice of words, Sakura,' she reprimanded herself. "Water."
She watched him carefully as he poured from the canister he pulled from the mini fridge under the bar and sniffed the drink experimentally when he put down the glass in front of her. When she lifted the water to her lips, the barman grabbed a ragged cloth and started cleaning the other side of the bar. 'Unfriendly bunch,' Inner Sakura huffed.
"I'm looking for a man," she started.
"Wrong side of town, darling," one of the other patrons called, followed closely by a cat call. Slowly, she turned her head to glance at the man, pinning him down with a glare. His mocking smile decreased rapidly until he looked away from her, refocusing his attention on his friend.
The man behind the bar had ceased his cleaning and looked her over briefly, his fingers playing with his mustache. "Who?" he asked suspiciously, picking up a glass to clean.
"A… crow," she ventured carefully.
The glass fell from his fingers and shattered immediately. "You!" he bellowed, lifting a squat, fat finger and jabbed it toward her face. "Out!"
Sakura stared at him for a brief moment longer, noting how his face was turning redder and redder. When she entered, she had been determined not to leave before receiving her answers and briefly she considered forcing the man to tell her what he knew. But, it just wasn't her, she decided and stood from her stool. Placing some bills on the bar, she strutted away, ignoring the man as he tossed her money back at her.
She clenched her teeth, then forced herself to relax when the door closed behind her. The people that passed her by eyed her warily. She supposed it was an easy thing to fix with a transformation jutsu and she could simply hide her gear from the world—but hiding her gear would be hiding her true self. Proudly, she re-tied her Konoha forehead protector around her head and stepped away from the door.
Her ANBU mask had been discarded a long time ago in any case—even if they did recognize the rest of the ensemble, the mask was what brought fear and anxiety to most citizens. It had been years since she had been so exposed to the outside world. Her mask had become a part of her and losing it in that far-off country she had searched before coming here had hurt, but it was inevitable.
It mattered little in any case. Hers was a face that the world needed to see now. The pink short hair that was currently tied in a high pony tail along with her intelligent green eyes were a dead giveaway. Even in the most remote areas, far beyond the rolling misty moors that led to the River Country or up north past the roaring sound of the waterfall of the Valley of the End, Haruno Sakura was known.
She was after all, one of the new Legendary Three.
Or what was left of it.
An ironic smile played on her lips.
Whispers and hushed voices followed her, yet Sakura chose to ignore them. Her business in town would hopefully end soon and they would forget she was ever there.
The sun sank lower in the sky, draining the light of day away and giving way to the dark of night. The ambient chirping of cicadas intensified just as Sakura heard the first buzz of mosquitoes. Sending chakra to her feet, Sakura walked into a dark alley and jumped. The movement sent her in a soaring arc over the rooftops. She landed nimbly on her feet and looked over the sprawling metropolis.
Though the official name of the city escaped her, locals and all other inhabitants of the Fire Country called it the Naraka. To her, it was Limbo. Situated at where the borders of Fire, Sound and Iron converged, Naraka used to be one of the up and coming cities of the Fire Country. War, however, had torn it apart even before the city was halfway built. Refugees and beggars had flocked to the city from every surrounding country. It was no wonder they were fearful of shinobi. To the citizens of Naraka, they were all the same, whether it was a Leaf symbol on their foreheads or Rain.
It might've been a place where hope was crushed and dreams were forgotten, but Sakura had come there to find hers. She looked up at the darkening sky, ambient starlight diffused by the early evening's mists was enough to see by in the dark and camouflage her. A cool breeze slipped across the rooftop, shifting the haze, brushing against her cheek. She had come far—now, for the final stretch.
Assembling more chakra to her feet, Sakura began making her way across the rooftops, using her chakra to throw herself from one to the other until she reached the city walls. From there, Sakura made her way up the tower and glanced down at the scraggly landscape outside. Cool wind ruffled her hair and cloak as she lifted herself out of the window and used her impeccable chakra control to walk up the last part of the tower, crouching down on the lip of the rooftop.
Prior to coming to town, Sakura had decided to ask around for him rather than use her chakra. However, the decidedly unfriendly visit to the café and the way the citizens of Naraka were treating her said enough—there would be no help from them. She was getting impatient anyway, Sakura noted with a smile as she focused her chakra and probed the area around her.
'Six-hundred and ninety-two days,' Sakura thought, searching the perimeter. 'That's how long I've been looking for you.'
Immediately as her chakra sprang to life in her body, pulsing through her veins, Sakura noticed two chakra sources heading her way. A quick glance down told her two shinobi were making their way to her, the symbol of the Rain village gleaming on their forehead protectors.
Taking another moment, she scanned the vicinity again and…
A triumphant smile formed on her face.
It was tiny, like a pinprick on her radar, but it was there. She wouldn't be able to miss it, even if she tried. Accumulating chakra to her right hand, Sakura hurled herself off the rooftop, plummeting head first towards the ground. The two shinobi who had found her grabbed their kunai in response but were too slow as Sakura spun mid-air, tossing two kunai at them simultaneously.
A faint thud resounded as one shinobi was hit in the middle of his forehead. The other skillfully dodged her weapon, and with a tiny glance at his companion, focused on her. He hastily formed seals. 'Fire attack, huh?' she thought, noticing the tiger seal. 'That is going to give away my being here…'
Utilizing her speed, Sakura sprinted around him just as he completed the final seal and gathered fire in his mouth. Dropping down to the floor, she slid to him, using her scalpel to cut through the tendons on his legs. Wrapping her hand around his mouth, she leaned forward and whispered, "Sorry." With that, she grasped his head in both hands and gave a quick, hard jerk. He fell limp in her hands and she laid him down, arranging his hands neatly before walking over to his partner, gently pulling the kunai from his forehead.
Saying a quick prayer for their departed souls, Sakura tossed herself off the wall and rushed over the roofs to where she had located the chakra source she had been searching for so long. With every step, it became more noticeable, stronger even, as if he were calling out for her. Her body had been fatigued when she came to the city, days of traveling had worn her out and she had looked forward to a comfortable bed, but it all faded away when she landed in the middle of the street, ignoring the shocked gazes of bystanders.
Swallowing in attempt to remove the lump that had formed in her throat, Sakura located a tiny Japanese style café. Several of the tables had been set up outside, tiny heaters lining the street to warm those sitting there. She spotted him immediately.
Despite only having seen him once before, Sakura had committed his face to memory. From the long raven bangs that framed his handsome face to the long, pronounced tear-troughs under his eyes. He was looking at her, a quiet intensity in his eyes. She had expected them to be crimson, but they were surprisingly dark today. His lips were set in a thin, impenetrable line, half hidden by the tea cup in his hand. Itachi leaned back in his chair, observing her momentarily before beckoning her to come closer.
"I've been looking for you," she said, unable to say anything else as she reached his table, breathless.
"So I've heard," Itachi replied in his dulcet, deep voice.
She sat down, heart pounding against her chest as she took him in. Though he had aged a couple of years since their last encounter, he still looked healthy and young, if not for the lines on his face. "Mind if I order a drink?" she said quietly, glad to see he wasn't about to attack her.
He shook his head minimally.
"After all, today is the fifth anniversary of Konoha's destruction."
A/N: I'm not sure whether to continue this now… Plenty of ideas running around in my head but I'm curious what you guys think of it too, haha. If you forgot to read the blurb on the top, please do! Points for everyone who can figure out who it is!
The timeline is set a couple of years after Pein's attack on Konoha. As this is a mystery fiction, more will be revealed as time goes by. It's a little dark, but the keyword for this fiction is 'trust.' I'll let you decide what I meant with that!
Thank you for reading!