Shizukesa:  - ExtractionBlood trickled out of Itachi's mouth, which had twisted into a patented Uchiha smirk. Standing above his brother, Sasuke narrowed his eyes. His charcoal hair blew over his face, and he waited for the imitation of Itachi to die.
“You still... don't have... the same eyes...” Itachi's chest rose and fell haphazardly, responding to the absence of a heart and laceration of lungs.
With that, his body shuddered and stilled. Sasuke's eyes grew wide as Itachi's features dissolved, leaving behind a completely different, unfamiliar person.
~ ~ ~
Karin led Kakashi and Chiyo closer to the source of the mind-blowing chakra that seemed to be covering the countryside. She shuddered as she felt Sasuke's chakra slip out of her sensing range. There was something wrong with the enemy he was facing, but she couldn't put her finger on it. Besides, his chakra was going haywire in the way it did when he got emotional. It wasn't often, but still...
That shark-guy totally freaked me out.
Shizukesa:  - Reality“Sakura.” he growled. “Release the genjutsu on Naruto and keep going.”
Itachi's sharingan glinted in the sunlight.
Stepping to the side, the elder Uchiha avoided a killer punch from Sakura, which left a sizeable crater in the ground. Through the flying rubble, a blue glow smashed into Itachi's back, creating a shockwave outwards.
Naruto's rasengan exploded, but so did the shadow clone that Itachi had cast, leaving the orange ninja exposed. A fireball burst from his right towards him, glowing and roaring, red like autumn leaves. He braced himself for an impact -
A black blur burst in front of him, and Sasuke swung his sword once through the fireball. It exploded into harmless candle flames that cascaded to the ground. The light blasted him in the face as he sheathed his sword, leaving his back in shadow for his teammates.
“Stay out of this.” Sasuke growled. “Both of you.”
Itachi stood, reigniting the sharingan staring contest that had just
Shizukesa:  - SetupThe temperature in Tsunade's office dropped by about ten degrees in an instant. While Naruto's eyes widened, revealing brilliant blue, Sasuke's crimson orbs narrowed dangerously.
“Gaara...?” Naruto stammered.
“Captured by Akatsuki.” Sasuke said silkily, a slight gravel in his deep voice. It wasn't a question; he was simply restating Tsunade's mission description.
The hokage nodded. “You're going to the Sand to provide assistance. Figure out what's going on, relay the information back via hawk, and then follow any further instructions they give you.”
Sakura nodded, emerald eyes brimmed with concern. Kakashi stepped forward and took the little sheaf of paperwork that made the mission official.
The silver jounin's head turned back at the sound of his name.
“Bring Karin with you.”
~ ~ ~
Karin delicately shattered the uncomfortable silence that had settled over Team 7.
“What's the deal with this 'Akatsuki' organiza
Shizukesa:  - IchirakuAn hour later, the newly reunited team 7 was walking down the main road, and Naruto was bragging to Kakashi. Sasuke's arms were folded in resentful annoyance and Sakura seemed lost in her own world. Maybe she was just tired; they had been up all night and hadn't eaten since lunch the previous day.
“Hey, sensei, maybe I'm stronger than you now!”
“Now now, I wouldn't go that far. I'm still young, and just the other day, I invented this amazing new jutsu...”
Naruto's stomach rumbled, interrupting Kakashi's sentence midway. “Hey... we haven't eaten for a day! Sensei, you should treat us to lunch.”
I miss the days when being a jounin actually meant something to them...
“Sorry guys, I have to do some paperwork for the new rookie teams. Later.”
With that, he disappeared in a puff of white smoke.
Naruto turned to his teammates, pouting. He caught a glimpse of Sasuke whispering something in Sakura's ear. She nodde
Shizukesa:  - ShippudenBreathing in the bright sunny air, Naruto padded towards the gate, clad from head to toe in orange garb that was only interrupted by streaks of black. For an old man, Jiraiya didn't hold back, at least not during training. He was still a cheap, stubborn old geezer, but he could still be an impressive ninja.
“It sure has been a while, hasn't it...” he sighed, almost to himself, slowing to look up at the grand, aging gates, which were beginning to part as he approached them.
“Two and a half years.” his elderly sensei chimed in, grinning slightly.
As they passed the gates, the old man shook his head in amusement, the childish antics of his student manifesting straight away. He watched the orange genin fly up into the air and land lightly on the tall wooden post, spreading his arms wide and shouting his greetings to the whole village.
“Hey, Naruto.” Kakashi's voice came from halfway between the genin and the ground. The silver jounin was perched on a til
Shizukesa:  - I Love YouHis swordsmanship was improving, albeit slowly. Sheer exposure to battle was starting to sink into his head, providing him with basic knowledge of what worked and what didn't.
It probably didn't help that he was fighting himself, but apparently nobody in the entire village was a swordsman.
The necklace hung from his neck, dangling on a plain black cord that was woven stronger than steel and infused with chakra. Its crystal was pure, smooth black, but the three-pronged shape was still jagged.
Ducking his own swinging blade, he slashed upwards across his clone's chest, sending a bright sizzle of electricity through the air as it dissolved into lightning.
Sunbeams were beginning to fall off one by one, cut off by tree branches and darkening the sky with every passing moment.
Raising his arm over his shoulder, he slid the sword back into the white wooden sheath on his back. He was wearing a plain blue shirt with the standard Uchiha fan on the back and his regular beige shorts.
As he began
Shizukesa:  - Healing“You've been in the village for less than 24 hours and you're back in the hospital already.”
Tsunade was standing over him, arms crossed. It was as if she didn't know what to make of the situation.
“I'm starting to think you injure yourself just so you can see Sakura.” she said, hinting at a grin.
Sasuke had just woken up moments ago, and he still didn't know the details of how he'd come to end up here.
He shook his head.
“The hospital isn't a place I try to get into.”
The hokage gave him a look, and briefed him on the extent of the burns and odd injuries he'd mysteriously sustained.
“Can you remember what happened?”
Again, he shook his head, eyebrows furrowed in concentration.
“I don't know. I was training last night, and I remember a flash of light. That's all.”
“I wouldn't be here if it were him, don't you think?” he said, veiling his sarcasm. He was speaking to the hokage after all.
Shizukesa:  - HomeSasuke tossed his backpack over his arm, scanning the empty room for anything he'd left behind. Satisfied, he pushed the door open and let himself out into the hallway where Karin and Sakura were supposed to be.
They were taking a while, as usual, but nevertheless he made his way down the hall to the lobby of the hotel, where a particularly inviting-looking couch sat. He eyed it for a moment before dropping like a rock onto the soft fabrics. The girl behind the front desk giggled at him, turning away when he looked at her with a question in his eyes.
He seemed to spend a blissful eternity just listening peacefully to the sounds of people going about their business.
“There you are!” Karin's voice cut through his comfort, and he stood up, sighing.
“You knew where I was.” he muttered, low enough that she barely heard.
She hit him playfully. A questionable habit of punching him in the shoulder had formed, Sasuke noticed.
He smiled at the familiar sig
Shizukesa:  - ConclusionAn hour later, the sun was just beginning to peek through the tattered blanket of leaves that covered the forest. Team 7 was just outside of the village gates, sitting around a modest impromptu fire pit, stuffing their faces with fish.
Sasuke ate almost ten without pause before he slowed down. He hadn't eaten for 24 hours, either.
“Oof.” Karin sprawled on her back, flopping to the ground with a satisfied grunt. “I've had enough fish for a lifetime.”
“You want something else, go hunt a deer.” Sasuke mumbled through a mouthful of food.
Karin stuck her tongue out and screwed up her face before laughing. “Thanks for breakfast.” she grinned.
He grunted, waving his hand dismissively to say 'Don't worry about it'.
Sakura puffed out her cheeks, full of food, and beamed thankfully at him. He nodded his response, giving her a tiny grin of his own.
When he had inhaled his eleventh fish, he stopped to figure out what had gone on while he was unconsci