Crows – an Itachi & Sakura story
By: MitsukiShiroi

Disclaimer: Naruto and all its characters belong to Masashi Kishimoto.


CHAPTER I


I wonder if it will end with my execution. With doubt and worry do I look at those around me these days, unsure of how to mask my own insecurities around those who rely on me the most. I'm not the hero they expect me to be.

I never wanted to be a savior and somehow, I ended up as one.


THE EXALTED


'It's like playing with toys,' he thought, eyes on the city beneath him.

The shadowy part of the city that sprawled in front of The Exalted was an unprosperous inner city suburb. He didn't like such places in his perfect world, but criminals were hard to stop. They slithered from whatever rock they came from and flocked to the city like rodents. The Exalted frowned and watched with detached interest as several faces looked up to meet his. They stopped in their tracks, shocked by his appearance before averting their eyes and scurrying on through the misty alleyways.

His cloak billowed gently in the early winter breeze. Lifting his hands, he tried to feel it brush against his skin and felt nothing. Lavender, ripple-patterned eyes focused on his pale hands for a moment longer before dismissing the errant thought.

Without his brain signaling for it, The Exalted's body launched itself into the air, over the dark alleys and streets until he landed in the main street. They made room for him without question, clearing a path as they dared gaze up to him with frightened eyes. He trudged with long, easy strides over the cobblestones, turning around one of the corners.

The Exalted closed his eyes for a brief moment. They burned—the shared vision of six was too much to handle for extended times. The Exalted frowned slightly. One of his brethren at the other side of the country was looking at two corpses put to rest next to each other, their hands folded over their bodies almost lovingly. He observed for a moment longer and ignored it. Such incidents tended to happen from time to time—not everyone agreed with God's Rule.

Thin lips curled into a small smile.

It didn't matter. Konoha had been a prime example of what would happen if they ever dared to try anything. The Kages had cowered and waited for God to exact his judgment. Tsunade had been last—God had allowed him to be the one to stab her with a black rod and watch the life drain out of her eyes.

Walking up to the taller tower in Chikusho, The Exalted climbed the stairs with ease and looked over the city one last time before retreating to his bed. His eyes were in need of some rest. As he lay down on the bed, his last thoughts were of his perfect world.


THE MENDER


The picture of the old Team Seven had frayed in the years that had passed since the picture had been taken, Sakura noted. A tear ran through the picture where Kakashi's face was, splitting his smiling face in two. Naruto's face had faded, though the outlines of his orange suit still contrasted starkly against the rest of the picture. Sasuke was seemingly unharmed by time's restless tides, as well as Sakura's own place in the picture.

She ran her long fingers over the photograph, admiring it for a moment longer before tucking it back into her clothes, holding it over her heart. Tying her pink hair together in a high ponytail, Sakura looked up at the clear, azure sky. As she stood and dusted herself off, Sakura glanced down at the vast wasteland that stretched in front of her, marred only by a single, massive tower that reached far into the sky overhead. 'Gedo Tower,' Sakura thought, thoroughly disgusted.

The mountain range that had once shadowed the village of Konoha was dwarfed in comparison to the Tower. The faces of Konoha's previous Hokage had been blasted off the mountain side, leaving five empty holes in the mount.

Feeling sick, Haruno Sakura turned from the remnants of her hometown and set out to the north. There had been reports on the Crow in the town of Naraka. Part of her wanted to give up on her search, somehow knowing that it wouldn't be him, that he was dead after all and that her findings had been wrong. And yet there was a part of her, stronger than any other emotion that kept her going on. An inferno that raged inside of her, of hatred and willpower and above all else—hope. 'I'll find him this time,' Sakura thought, strapping her weapons to her leg. 'I'll find you, Uchiha Itachi.'

Sakura almost smiled. She found him alright—here he was, calmly sipping tea as if the world around him hadn't fallen apart. His intense steel-grey eyes were focused on her as he brought his cup to his mouth again, long fingers curled around the stone surface. She waited patiently for the waitress to return with another cup of tea and took a whiff. 'Sencha,' she realized with a pang. It had been her favorite once.

She stared into the murky brown depths of her tea where her silhouette was outlined in its surface. Her talk to Itachi was well-rehearsed in the mirror. She knew exactly how to ask him, where to put extra emphasis on and yet, while he stared at her with those intense eyes of his, Sakura was at a loss of words. "You're a very hard man to find," she began casually, sipping carefully.

"And still you searched," Itachi said, detached interest in his eyes.

"This world has changed a lot since I first began exploring it," Sakura said, smiling as she looked up at the night sky. Her cold fingers enjoyed the warmth emanating from her tea cup. "I thought I knew it all and understood it all. I was considered one of the brightest students in Konoha and yet I knew nothing."

He remained silent and so she continued.

"I've learned the truths of the world, Uchiha Itachi." Determined green met impassive grey. "I've learned about the dark side that Konoha used to have, about the village council members and I've learned about the Uchiha Clan… and you."

'He did it all to protect Sasuke,' Yamato's deep voice echoed in her head. 'He did it for the village. Konoha's Uchiha Itachi. And he'll never know gratitude for his actions, only scorn.'

"I know what happened to your clan," Sakura said confidently, squaring her shoulders. She had expected him to laugh and deny, but Itachi seemed almost tired as he reclined in his chair and listened to her. "I know it was an order from Konoha and I know you did it to protect your clan and subsequently joined Akatsuki as a spy."

"Enough," Itachi said quietly, finishing his drink.

"Sasuke is safe," Sakura said, forcing a smile. She had no idea how to proceed from now. But she knew that no matter what, he would value that little piece of information. Interest sparked in the depths of his dark eyes for a moment before vanishing. "He's cast off his ideas for revenge and hatred in favor of honoring what he believes is your last wish. He's fighting for Konoha's sake."

"He believes I'm dead?" Itachi asked.

Sakura closed her eyes. "You've hid yourself very well. It's taken me years to even catch your trail, much less find you. I assume you didn't want to reveal yourself to Sasuke yet." Or anymore, she added to herself.

In truth, she hadn't been sure if this had been the right course of action. Sasuke was torn because of his brother's death—happy that his clan was now avenged for only a brief moment before Madara tore down the lies. He told Sasuke the true story behind his brother's actions and Konoha's involvement. He had hated them at first, massacring Danzou in some far off country before returning to Konoha to exact the last part of his revenge.

He came back to nothing.

She had wanted to tell him, knowing he would do anything to see his brother again, to get his answers and above all else, to reassure himself he had not killed his beloved older brother. But there were too many uncertainties and too many hopes where realistic thoughts should have dwelled.

"Why are you here?"

'Straight to the point, Itachi,' Sakura thought, inhaling deeply. "I know about you. You've only been my enemy up till now but I come asking a favor."

"A favor?" Itachi prompted silently.

"A group of shinobi and myself have been working together to find all Konoha shinobi who survived. We're planning to take back Konoha," she whispered, mouth suddenly dry. Her hometown—their hometown, had been laid to waste by Pein himself after he took Naruto. There were some that managed to survive and some that managed to run, but most had been buried underneath the rubble. If they hadn't already been dead, they had starved in the days that had followed, unable to escape from their graves.

"Konoha is gone, Sakura-san," Itachi replied after a short pause, reclining in his chair.

"Only if we give up on it," Sakura said softly.

Silence stretched on between them and Sakura sighed as she listened to the faint patter of rain falling down on the tarp that stretched out over their heads. As the rain increased, people started running down the streets in search of places to hide.

It still surprised Sakura that she was able to notice all of these things and still manage complete focus on Itachi. The first time she had ever been forced to keep an eye out for her own safety while keeping an eye on her target was during her first training with Team Seven. It ended up with her too focused on Sasuke to realize Kakashi had snuck up on her and used a genjutsu. Even now, she was fond of the memory, if a little embarrassed.

As always, thoughts of Team Seven calmed her. Her heart had been pounding against her chest for a while now, but was finally calming down, easing into a normal heart rate. These three men were why she traveled the world in search of people to help her restore her beautiful village to its original glory. She had given up on all her own hopes and dreams just to protect the dreams of those three.

She would not fail.

"You've lied. You've killed. You've done horrible things, not just to Sasuke but to a whole lot of people," Sakura said softly, leaning forward to lock her eyes with his. "But… You're the only one of Konoha's strongest that is still alive. The old Legendary Three… Gai, Asuma, Kakashi—they're all gone. He's been hunting us all systematically for years since we refused to give in, believing in the Will of Fire until the very end."

"I'm not a hero," Itachi said quietly, emotionlessly.

"Yes you are," Sakura said simply. "An unsung one—a hated one perhaps, but you are still capable of helping us."

Without saying anything else, Itachi put down some money on the table and stood from his place. Sakura winced as she listened to the steel legs of his chair scrape against the cobblestones and watched him, shock in her eyes, as he walked off without saying another word.

"Please don't turn your back against us," Sakura said quietly, knowing he would still be able to hear her. She spotted him from the corner of her eye. He was looking over his shoulder at her, dark eyes blank and inscrutable. "You're Konoha's Uchiha Itachi, aren't you?"

"There is no more Konoha," Itachi said, disappearing in a flock of crows.

She rose from her chair, fully intending on chasing him, but as the black feathered birds flew off into the inky night sky, Sakura realized what a fool she had been.

Six-hundred and ninety-two days and she had failed.


She hated this town, of that she was sure.

Naraka.

Her personal hell.

How had she come this far only to fail to spectacularly? Sakura wondered as she sat down on the edge of the building and looked up at the star-shot sky. There was a tiny doubt in Sasuke's eyes when she questioned him whether or not Itachi had really been killed that day. There were more doubts in Kiba's eyes when she asked him whether Itachi's scent had really faded from the area or whether it was possible for him to have walked off on his own.

How could she have been such a fool to think she could rely on a former S-Class criminal? Konoha's hero of the shadows, yes, but he wasn't that man anymore. Years of being in Akatsuki had to have corrupted him at some point and still she had faith in him, a man that she had met only once and tried to kill her teammate during that time.

Worst of all, she promised them a savior and she would end up returning empty-handed.

Tears burned in the corners of her eyes, but Sakura simply ignored them. The time for tears was over and that Sakura had died alongside Konoha five years ago. Resolutely, Sakura stood from her place and looked over the city one last time before turning around.

Part of her wanted to return to where she had met Itachi, to try one last time, but his voice had an air of finality to it that she couldn't ignore. His mind was made up and she had wasted enough time already. She closed her eyes briefly, inhaling the rank scent of Naraka and knew she would never be back to this town again. Reopening her eyes, she found she was not alone.

"Pein," she exhaled in shock, watching him as the burly man came closer. Lavender rippled-patterned eyes locked with hers for a moment, observing her like a hunter would with its prey. In his eyes, she could see how she would be ripped apart limb from limb. 'No, not now. I'm not strong enough,' Sakura thought, before gritting her teeth, adrenaline pumping through her body.

"Haruno Sakura." He sounded almost smug. "I've finally found you."

'I have to run, have to disappear… move… move, Sakura… move!' her inner self willed her to move and before she had even registered it, she had sprinted from the rooftop onto another. His heavy footsteps followed her closely but Sakura paid them little heed. Accumulating chakra to her feet to fuel her leaps across the city's building, Sakura dropped into a shadowed alley, making her way through the maze of streets and passageways of Naraka. Using her chakra to sense her surroundings, Sakura felt Pein following her closely.

'This is his Naraka Path,' Sakura thought, thinking back at all the information the Leaf Rebels had collected on Pein over the years. 'Which means that if he grabs me, it's over.'

As if he had been waiting for her to cross the road to the northern exit of Naraka, Pein caught up with her in the middle of the road. She remained rooted to the spot as his hand shot out to grab her neck and hold her up. His iron grip on her throat tightened as he shook her lightly. "Where are the Konoha rebels?"

All around her and Pein, a crowd had formed in a large circle, watching with morbid fascination as their God took down another rebel. The pink haired kunoichi of the Neo-Sannin. They had all heard of her.

Sakura gasped for breath, wrapping her hands around Pein's arm in an effort to break herself free, but was promptly stopped when she noticed something appearing out of thin air behind Pein. A huge beast with a black crown and Rinnegan rose from the ground. It stared at her menacingly and opened its maw, showing her row after row of pearly white, sharp teeth. Rather than having a tongue though, the King of Hell Pein had summoned had two hands that lay limply in its mouth. They stirred and reached out to her.

'This is it,' Sakura thought, strangely calm. 'I failed.'

She wanted to keep on fighting, to keep going forward and bring back her village. They depended on her to mend their dreams back together and bring back Konoha and yet, there was a small treacherous part of her that wanted to give in. If she died, she'd be with her family and friends again, reunited in whatever awaited her after death.

'Sakura…' his voice resounded through her head.

She snapped open her eyes.

The King of Hell statue had been blinded. Several kunai protruded from the lavender irises. Even as she fought to remain conscious, Sakura noticed Pein looking over his shoulder with detached interest, before a large sword that seemed to be created from flames itself cut his arm off, releasing her from his hold. She dropped to the ground, fighting to catch her breath and kept her eyes on Pein at all time. The newcomer to the battle took a step forward, a large fiery sentinel wrapped firmly around him.

"Uchiha Itachi," Pein simply said.


THE SURVIVOR


It stirred, as if sensing his gaze.

Uchiha Sasuke activated his Sharingan.

Instantly, the creature's chakra flow became visible to him. Jagged and rough, rather than the graceful flow of any other shinobi he had observed in his life. There were five others like the man he was looking at—all part of Pein's Six Paths. This particular one, the Deva Path, had caused the destruction to Konoha, or so he had been told.

It stared off into the distance as if seeing something he couldn't see. Annoyed, Sasuke realized that was probably the exact case—the Rinnegan the creatures shared most probably showed him something interesting.

Pein stepped onto the inky black surface of the lake, seemingly oblivious to the rest of the world as it looked up to the bright stars. It moved its lips, too far away for him to hear, but the Sharingan copied the words perfectly and relayed them to his mind.

'Haruno Sakura.'

Checking his reverse-summon scroll and finding it intact, Sasuke observed Pein for a moment longer before slipping back into the shadows.

It – he still thought of them as creatures and puppets rather than former human beings – had been patrolling the south-western border of the Fire Country. So far, Deva had proven to be the only Path that ever left its designated town, as if searching for something. Morbid fascination had driven him to take detours on his way back to the tiny houses the rebels had built near the thick woodlands south of what used to be Konoha. There was something Deva was searching for and Uchiha Sasuke wouldn't be Uchiha Sasuke if he wasn't curious to see what it was.

Sending chakra to his feet, Sasuke leapt from branch to branch, quickly making his way through the luscious forest.

Naraka had been where Sakura was headed off to last he saw her. Though her scroll was seemingly intact, Sasuke didn't take risks anymore when it came to his treasured people.

After all, there were so few left.


A/N: My god that took long.

This story is written with character triads. Meaning there are three main characters (The Exhalted/Mender/Survivor) and their viewpoints will be shown. Every viewpoint takes place during the same time as the other viewpoints in the same chapter. Meaning you'll also get to see a certain event from multiple viewpoints along with their corresponding thought process and emotions.

Hope that clears everything up. Thus far nobody has guessed who's talking in the blurbs before the start of the chapters. Perhaps this chapter gave you some more information?

Chapter is unbeta'd. Sorry! ;)

Hope you enjoyed it.

Mitsuki Shiroi