Author: cutecrazyice PM
For the world is cruel, and so is life. Now, she must put aside her heartaches and go on a mission with the one boy who betrayed her, and the one man who abandoned them - all this, to save the most precious person in their lives. KakaSaku, SasuSakuRated: Fiction M - English - Adventure/Romance - Sakura H. - Chapters: 6 - Words: 28,442 - Reviews: 660 - Favs: 245 - Follows: 354 - Updated: 03-15-09 - Published: 08-10-08 - id: 4462313
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Bring Back the Dead
"I want you to read this."
There was the shuffle of papers, as Shizune carefully deposited the scrolls she was carrying at a nearby empty table. Then, there was the soft sound of footsteps, as Shizune approached the Hokage's desk, where a woman with blond hair, large breasts and a beautiful face was situated, sitting down, with a troubled crease on her forehead.
Not, of course, that Shizune was going to mention that crease—if she did, it was likely she was going to get suspended for a week.
Silently, the Hokage's assistant took the scroll being handed to her. She gave her mentor a curious look, before inclining her head down, and proceeding to lower her eyes to the small sheet of rice paper, with silk adorning its edges. It looked ordinary enough—the type of scroll that middle-class men or leaders usually sent for invitations to functions or the likes.
She began to read. Silently, of course, and fast. As the message sank in, and as she got to the bottom of the page, it was all Shizune could do not to gasp out loud, and to ignore the worry curling in her stomach.
Or to drop the scroll, for that matter.
She had gone from curious to pale in a matter of seconds.
"Tsunade-sama! This is—this is—" Shizune stopped talking after a moment, not really sure of what to say. Shocked beyond belief, she gave the scroll back to the other and proceeded to stand there, waiting for what the blond, older woman had to say. In all her life, she had never seen her mentor look so troubled, because nothing usually fazed the woman—but reading the scroll, she understood where the worry was coming from.
"I know what you mean, Shizune," Tsunade finally replied calmly, albeit a weary sigh coming out of her lips. She looked up, her face grim.
In an instant, honey eyes met black.
Something cold, and dark, and unreadable, passed between them.
"We need to rescue them, don't we, Tsunade-sama?" Shizune asked softly.
"Do you even have to ask?" Tsunade intoned, raising an eyebrow. "Of course we do. Not only because one is the Kazekage's sister—the other is one of us. One of our best. I will not leave them to die." This was said in such a firm tone, Shizune had no doubt action would indeed be taken.
Frowning, Tsunade looked down at the scroll again, the crease in her forehead going deeper. She seemed to be thinking. "We need a team of ninjas. The Kazekage has already sent out one team for the mission. They're already out there."
"But Tsunade-sama, it's a difficult mission. We would likely be sending our ninjas to their deaths—"
The blond woman raised a fisted hand, and pounded it firmly on her desk—immediately, said desk cracked, and then splintered into two. Shizune blinked, then snapped her mouth shut, knowing any more words would only anger Tsunade even more.
"We have to try," Tsunade said firmly. "One team—most of them to survey, and around two to blend in. They will have to be a part of this different world, to be able to save their comrades."
"It's a dangerous world, Tsunade-sama," Shizune murmured quietly.
Tsunade nodded. "I know. That's why we need our top shinobi for this."
For a moment, the Hokage eyed the scroll again, a battle of questions going through her eyes. Then, those eyes cleared, and she nodded, as if already decided.
"Get me Sakura."
"Sakura?" Shizune asked uncertainly.
"Yes. And the Uchiha."
"Sasuke??" Shizune exclaimed incredulously—now her eyes widened, as if she could not believe what was being said. "But Tsunade-sama, the circumstances—the two—"
"Are you questioning my decisions, Shizune?" Tsunade demanded angrily.
"Er..n—no, Tsunade-sama," Shizune stammered, turning red at the implication. "Of course not."
"Very well. You go get them now!I don't care if there have been circumstances between them in the past year—they are two of our best and they need to be on this mission. Is that understood?"
"Who will be the others in the team?"
A pause. Then Tsunade shook her head.
"I haven't decided yet. Shizune, get me a list of our best shinobi in the active roster. Now. Then get those two."
"What are you waiting for? Go!"
With a last bow, Shizune exited the Hokage's office as fast as she could, wanting to deliver the message and get it over with—but at the same time, not wanting to. She was worried, and her mind was in turmoil, because in truth, this wasn't a mission to laugh about. It was highly dangerous, and highly risky, and if she was the Hokage, she would not be sending her own shinobi to such a plight—to such a dark world.
Okay, that was a lie.
If Shizune had to be honest (and she was, most of the time)...she would do the same thing herself, not as the Hokage—but as a human.
As a friend.
But...at the risk of harming other friends?
Shizune sighed. She had no right to question decisions. Tsunade knew best, and Tsunade always made sound judgments—except when drinking and gambling, of course. But the woman was sober now.
Shizune was just going to have to trust her. Completely.
Even if her gut instinct was telling her that something was bound to go very, very wrong.
It was the dark clouds in the sky that told Haruno Sakura it wasn't going to be a pleasant day. A kind of omen, that was what it was—and if there was one thing she didn't like, it was omens.
Omens meant disaster.
The message owl was the second clue. Now she was almost positive the day wasn't going to be pleasant.
Sakura entered the Hokage's tower quickly, annoyance and curiosity written all over her face. Annoyance because she had just been interrupted by said owl (very noisy delivery owl, too) while having an interesting lecture for the new medic-nin hopefuls of Konoha hospital; curiosity, because in actuality, the Hokage had never interrupted her lectures for something as trivial as "a meeting to talk about your future", as the message paper had so bluntly put it. That was Tsunade for you—always finding cryptic ways to get someone's interest fast.
It had to be something important.
When Sakura finally reached the top office's door, she took deep breaths, to lessen the impact her running bout had on her lungs. When she was ready, she took one more breath, and proceeded to knock.
A pause. Then...
She opened the door silently, quickly assessing the room. She wasn't surprised to see Shizune standing there, right beside Tsunade—Ton-ton, of course, nestled quite comfortably in her arms. Sakura went forward, glancing at Shizune to give a bright smile. Shizune smiled back, albeit distractedly.
It was that smile that brought the third clue.
Puzzled, Sakura turned to her mentor. The older woman was not looking at her—in fact, she barely even acknowledged Sakura's presence. She was looking down at her desk (splintered?), at a piece of unwrapped scroll that had neat writings in it—yet she didn't seem to be reading it. Her eyes, in Sakura's opinion, were just trained there, not moving, as if trying to meditate on something. Her hands were in front of her, at the desk too, clasping one another tightly.
She didn't speak for a long time.
Still puzzled, Sakura turned her gaze back to Shizune, trying to ask what was wrong through her green eyes. Shizune merely smiled again. It was a reassuring smile this time, one that seemed to offer silent comfort and support.
Comfort for what? Support at what?
Total silence. Nobody seemed willing to tell.
That was the fourth clue, and she couldn't take anymore.
Tsunade looked up. Sakura saw, for the first time that day, the emotions twirling in her mentor's face. Worry. Fear. Anxiety.
Then her face shut off, leaving only a placid mask of calm serenity.
It wasn't Tsunade, her mentor, in front of her now—it was Tsunade the Hokage.
And it wasn't a comforting sight.
"Shishou?" Sakura prodded gently.
Tsunade sighed. "I have a mission for you, Sakura."
"What kind of mission?" Sakura asked.
"One that might change the course of your life."
"Shishou, you're not speaking very clearly," Sakura reprimanded. Shizune seemed to wince, but Sakura ignored that. Tsunade seemed to ignore it, too, as she was gazing at the pink-haired kunoichi almost in question.
"How is the Uchiha?"
It wasn't the question Sakura was expecting.
She immediately stiffened, her eyes staring wide and confused at her mentor. But recovering quickly, Sakura instantly shut out all expression from her face, and tried to look as placid and as calm as possible.
It's been months. She had no right to feel anything.
"I wouldn't know, shishou," she finally replied, her voice even. "I haven't talked to him in months."
Tsunade spoke again.
"How is his wedding coming along?"
This time, Sakura couldn't stop the hurt from flickering in her green eyes. From pounding, however slightly, in her insides.
She steeled herself.
"I should not be the person you ask, shishou," she said, softly. Coolly. "Ask the wife-to-be. Or better yet...ask him."
Tsunade nodded. "Very well. I shall follow your advice. Uchiha, you can come in now."
Slowly, the front door opened.
Slowly, Sakura froze.
"You wanted to see me, Hokage-sama?" His deep, emotionless voice pierced the air like a bucket of cold water being thrown in someone's face. Inwardly shocked, Sakura kept her eyes on her mentor, her confused look slowly turning into a glare.
Naturally, the Hokage ignored this. Instead, she in turn eyed the raven-haired man in observation, as, with the grace of a well-seasoned shinobi, Uchiha Sasuke glided inside the room, and proceeded to stand right beside the pink-haired kunoichi—completely ignoring her as he did so.
Sakura ignored him in turn.
And the tension was so, so palpable.
"Yes, Uchiha, I wanted to see you," Tsunade finally replied. "How is the wedding coming along?"
From the corner of her eye, Sakura saw him nod his head.
"It's coming along fine, Hokage-sama," he said calmly. "We will be married in a few months' time."
"And the baby?" This was asked quite politely.
"...the baby is fine."
"Delivery in a few months?"
Tsunade stared. Nodded her head. Then she spoke again.
This time, all politeness was gone.
"Good. Now I order you to cancel the wedding."
It was like a second bucket of iced water was being thrown.
In everyone's face this time.
Shizune bit her lip, quite worriedly. Sakura's mouth dropped slightly open—though she still had the presence of mind to close it, and struggle to look unaffected by all the news being thrown her way.
Sasuke became rigid at once.
"Excuse me?" His voice became even colder than before.
"Are you deaf, Uchiha?" Tsunade nearly yelled, glaring at the stoic man. "I said cancel the wedding! I have a mission for you and Sakura, and some more shinobi—one that will probably take you around a year or so, if my estimation is correct."
"Years?" Sakura blurted out.
"I decline the mission—" Sasuke began to say.
"I won't allow it!" Tsunade cut in.
Sasuke's stoic face began to become one of anger.
"And why not?" he asked, voice becoming dangerous now.
Then Tsunade said the exact words that Sakura had never expected she'd ever hear at all.
The very words that made her blood run very, very cold.
"Because you are going on a mission to rescue the former fiancé of the woman you are going to marry."
Tsunade liked to believe she was a fair Hokage. Konoha was proof enough of that—the peaceful citizens, the prosperous economy, the growing number of allies and the lessening of crime rates.
Hell, she would even take credit for being a part in the elimination of the last of the Akatsuki threat.
But alas—Akatsuki wasn't going to be the last threat.
And looking at two of her best shinobi's faces—one shocked and drained of almost all color, the other rigid and cold and unbelieving—she wondered if she was doing the right thing.
Then she frowned. Why was she even asking? Wondering?
Of course she was doing the right thing.
She was the Hokage, dammit.
And she was going to make sure—with every ounce of her backbone and breath—that her long-lost shinobi was going to be rescued from the very epitome of hell.
That boy was going to remain alive.
As familiar shinobi face after familiar shinobi face entered the office, expressions ranging from curious to weary to cheerful, Tsunade, Shizune and the two they had called in first remained silent, for different reasons. It was obvious why Sakura was silent—her initial struggle not to tremble in front of everybody was clear, at least in Tsunade's eyes. As for Sasuke's silence, she couldn't really tell—the man really was too unreadable for his own good.
When the last shinobi called appeared, the door finally closed.
And the Hokage—all business-like and no-nonsense—finally spoke once more.
"There is a new organization currently residing in Snow country, one that's called Haburi."
"They are the new Akatsuki, except they are very different."
Some eyebrows rose. Yamanaka Ino, who was standing right beside Sakura, had both of her eyebrows in the air.
"How different, Hokage-sama?" she asked.
"Well," the Hokage replied. "Instead of banding together to take power and money by creating wars as the Akatsuki had done in the past, the Haburi does it by only one means—slavery."
"Common," Nara Shikamaru commented, from where he was standing in between Ino, and a very silent Hyuuga Neji. "Tsunade-sama, what's the catch?"
Tsunade's eyes gleamed at the question. Then she turned grim again.
"Ah, you're right. There is one catch. You see, they don't enslave you—unless you are in the bingo book. And they don't do it for power to control the world—only for money. How, you ask? Well, to make it short...they hold battles. Slave versus slave. Fight to death. It's a betting thing, like horses being gambled on. But I don't believe that's all—after all, slaves have other uses." The way she said this, it was already obvious what she was trying to imply. "And Shikamaru?"
"Your wife's still alive. She's one of their slaves."
Everybody became rigid with shock at that.
"...and they have Naruto."
And then...utter chaos.
Shikamaru nearly choked at the news, his eyes going wide and his mouth dropping very wide open. Neji blinked. Inuzuka Kiba muttered some obscenities, Akamaru barking along with him. Ino visibly paled, and stumbled a few steps backward—she would have fallen down, if not for Sakura grabbing ahold of her arm, and getting her steady again. She looked at Sakura, who nodded. She turned to look at Shikamaru, something like hurt flickering in her blue eyes.
Sasuke remained steadily, coldly detached.
Rock Lee, the last one inside the room, was the only one who managed to speak up in coherent sentences.
Or yell, to be precise.
"Hokage-sama! By the power of youth, let us go and rescue them right now! It wouldn't even take long, we can let springtime prevail and—"
"Silence, Lee," Tsunade cut in.
He shut up at once. Sighing, the blond Sannin rubbed her forehead, waiting until the noise died down to a decent level (she was in no mood to further splinter her desk with more poundings).
"It was an ally of Sunagakure who informed the Kazekage of his sister's whereabouts—the sister that he had thought was dead for three years now." Her eyes flickered to Shikamaru for a moment, who looked to be still in some kind of shock. "I called all of you because this is not an easy task—I did not call Hinata because this news might shock her enough to do damage to her unborn child."
Tension rose. Immediately, Ino stopped glancing worriedly at Shikamaru, and turned to glare at Sasuke.
Sasuke ignored her.
"You cannot just infiltrate any time you want," Tsunade continued. "Mostly because of one thing. Their base camp in Snow Country has a shield—once you get in, you cannot get out. Only the leader, a man named Humoki Kane, has power to control it. Maybe his trusted minions, too—of that, I am uncertain. But why do you think none of the slaves has escaped yet? Like I said, it's not easy. They are bound—by what, we don't know yet. But one thing's for sure—if it's powerful enough that Naruto hasn't escaped yet, then it is pretty powerful."
Silence. Tsunade went on.
"Now, the mission. I don't need all of you to go inside—that would be suicide. Three of you will be for surveying from the outside—Shikamaru, since you are the head tactician, I suggest you be part of this group. Two will be for spying—partial undercover, heading in and out the base, to assess the situation. I don't care what you will pose as, be it gamblers or whatever the hell you come up with—it's your call. The remaining two, will be the main undercover spies of this mission. Sakura?"
"I want you to become a slave."
It was like Tsunade had suggested that Sakura kill herself, judging from almost everyone's expressions.
Sakura stiffened, but remained silent.
Ino, however, did not.
"But Tsunade-sama! She's a woman! You said yourself their slaves had other uses other than for battles. A woman—"
"Are you questioning me, Ino?" Tsunade asked sharply.
Ino stopped shouting. "Er—no, Hokage-sama...but—"
"I'll do it."
All heads in the room (except Neji and Tsunade and Sasuke) turned to look at the firm, decided voice.
Lee gaped. "But Sakura-chan! You can't—"
"It's Naruto," Sakura cut in. "I'll do anything for him."
Tsunade's eyes softened a bit. "Are you sure, Sakura?" she asked. Yes, she may have suggested—but if her apprentice declined, she could have easily picked someone else.
Then Sakura nodded her head. "Yes. I'm sure," she replied softly.
Something in the blond Sannin's heart screamed at her not to allow this—but she nodded her head back all the same. She was the Hokage first—the surrogate mother last.
It was simply how things were.
"Very well," Tsunade said. "Sasuke?"
"You will be her master."
It seemed that, whatever next news she piled up, everybody wasn't finished reacting.
This time, the tension could clearly be cut by a knife.
This time, everybody (even the emotionless Uchiha himself) went rigid with more shock.
"But Hoka—" Ino began again—then she snapped her mouth shut, as honey eyes glared at her.
Sakura paled again, nearly trembling—her blond female best friend held firm on her arm, just like she had on the blond a few moments earlier.
After some seconds, the paleness lessened. Sakura's eyes met Tsunade's—green on honey. They stared at each other in silence.
Something akin to understanding passed there.
Finally, Sakura quietly nodded her head again.
And once more, the shock increased.
"I beg your pardon?" she asked, staring at the Uchiha in disbelief. Sasuke, whose shock had turned back to no emotion, merely stared back, onyx eyes calm.
"I will not be a part of this mission," he intoned.
"W—what?" Sakura demanded softly, her eyes widening. "Are you kidding me?"
He ignored her.
"He is dead to me—and I am marrying Hinata."
"Why?!" Ino screeched.
"Simple. Because she is carrying my child."
And with that, the Uchiha left.
And chaos once again ensued.
"That bastard!" Kiba growled angrily. "Hokage-sama, you can't tell me you're allowing that! That's unspeakable!"
"His youthfulness is being wasted by such arrogance—"
"STUPID PRICK! STUPID, GOOD-FOR-NOTHING—" Ino was turning into a madwoman.
Shizune was now fisting her hands, so hard that Ton-ton squealed, and flew out of her grasp. Akamaru barked hysterically.
Neji merely glared at the front door. "He is not worth our time."
"You are right, Hyuuga," Tsunade said, sighing. Kami—she was getting a major headache. "But if he doesn't want to, we are going to have a difficult—Sakura! Where the hell are you going?"
But Sakura wasn't listening. Disentangling herself from everyone, she stalked to the front door, turning back only enough to give a short, curt—angry, and very determined—reply.
Her green eyes gleamed with something unreadable. Something too deep to comprehend.
"To make sure this mission gets done—even if I have to drag Sasuke back half-dead."
She slammed the door as she got out.
Now, it was Tsunade who was yelling obscenities.
"Dammit! Why is this even happening!?"
Everybody was too agitated to reply.
"Alright!" she snarled. "Obviously that stupid Uchiha is not gonna be the inside man—any volunteers?"
"I shall do it!" Lee yelled. "My youthfulness will—"
"Anyone else?" Tsunade cut in. Really, Lee was good—just not at undercover.
The youth speech would just give too much away.
"I—" Neji began.
"Not you," Tsunade interrupted. "Your Byakugan is for surveying."
Kiba stepped forward. "Then I—"
"Let me do it, Hokage-sama."
The last voice had come not from the people in the room. No.
It came from somewhere behind the tower window.
Slowly, a head of silver hair peeked in.
Slowly, the shock—yet again—increased.
"Kakashi-sensei!" Lee proclaimed. "My idol's eternal rival!"
Kakashi's hand appeared, to give out a wave. "Hello, Lee."
It was only then that everyone noticed the blood, now dripping all over the windowsill.
And, as he climbed in further, the rest of his body wasn't exactly in good shape either.
"Kakashi-san!" Shizune exclaimed in panic. "You're—I—you're back! You're injured!"
Tsunade merely stared at him in shock.
"How long have you been back?!" she demanded.
An eye crinkled. "Just now. And I couldn't help overhearing. And volunteering."
"You're six months late from a damn simple mission and now you want to volunteer?!" Unable to control her anger now, Tsunade pounded her splintered desk—it immediately shattered into a million pieces. The others winced at this.
Kakashi merely nodded. "There were complications. As for your second question...of course. I volunteer."
It was only then that Tsunade noticed the extent of the injuries, and not just the blood. No, they weren't just scratches. There were broken bones, too.
How could the man even walk?
The answer came easily, as the silver-haired special jounin took a step forward—and promptly lost balance. He fell to the floor with a loud thud.
But not before uttering one very meaningful sentence.
And not before Tsunade saw something dark and uncomprehensible and utterly, absolutely dangerous swirl in his exposed eye.
Like pain. But of the deeper, more intense kind.
"Because I will do anything to get Naruto. Alive."
He lost consciousness right away.
As Shizune and Tsunade dismissed everyone, and went on to heal the unconscious man, the Hokage thought. And thought.
And finally, she decided.
Anything for Naruto.
...but why did she have the feeling that things weren't working out the way they were supposed to be?
a/n: And here it is...the first chapter of Slave Driver. This is going to be a mix of action/adventure/drama/romance, everybody. Hope you enjoyed reading so far. No adventure yet, but I promise more is yet to come.
As you can see, there are a lot of complications. Like the Sakura-Sasuke-Hinata-Naruto thing. How did that happen? And there are other complicated pairings, too, which I'll let you guess on. Don't worry, though - things will be revealed as the story unravels.
So...continue? I'd love to have your feedback. Happy reading, guys. Hope you review. :)