Sakura is perceived from the perspectives of others as she changes during the years into something else entirely. The people near her follows her transition closely and when she starts abandoning everything she held dear - she gets closer and closer to her goal.
Through the Eyes of a Prisoner, a Demon and a Cloud Watching Boy
The Caged Avenger, Uchiha Sasuke
"You're one of those few people who fit in chains, Sasuke."
A voice startled him in his muddled mind, the burning chains chafing against his inflamed skin and he tiredly snapped his head up. He recognised that voice, and it was not Izanagi that came to visit and question him on the outside world again.
"Wow, it's hot in here." She commented, dramatically wiping her forehead and huffing as she did. Her petal hued hair had grown longer, falling in spiky curls down to her breasts. She was a bit taller. Her muscle mass had developed to a slender and well defined structure in her body. Her face had matured and her cheekbones were more visible than he remembered them to be. Her peach kissed lips smiled at him, but it was without warmth.
It was her.
"Sakura?" Sasuke breathed with a raspy voice. "How- how the hell did you get in here?" He sighed and furrowed his eyebrows, realising it might not be real, just a figment of his crazed state of mind. The image of pink was blurry on his retina. "Or are you just an illusion? You can't possibly be real..."
"Oh, shut it Sasuke. I'm here. It's not that impossible, now is it?" The pink haired woman said and scanned the cell, glancing at the fires that ate everything in its way, and the chains keeping Sasuke inside the cell with iron bars. The fires scorched his skin.
"Izanami lured me to Merge with her. Somehow, when she used my body she caged me. Inner changed our positions and she shoved me into her garden. I was transferred into a dimension of darkness and I wandered for a bit in a black void space without stars. But the fires of your cell led me here, I saw a flickering light in the distance of the darkness. So I wandered and wandered and ended up in front of your cell. No wonder it was a light, you're burning like a candle."
"That's not plausible, though. It shouldn't be possible." The avenger said, his eyes getting sharper. "You're not real. Izanagi is playing mind games with me."
"Don't talk about things being possible or not, Sasuke-kun." Sakura sighed. "For heaven's sake, you're trapped in your own mind by a God, from the looks of it. I'd guess Izanagi Merged with you too. Your body is moving on his command. My body is moving about as well in the outside world, but by Izanami - the goddess of death. It's so weird. I get flashes of the outside world. Now how plausible is that, really? Either way, I'm as real as it gets. Inside your mind, that is." Sakura said and waved with her finger at him, her other hand at her hip. She wore a black dress that clung to her body intimately, flowing around her bare legs in the nonexistent breeze of a wind.
"I think I kind of felt your chakra. It's sparkling blue, isn't it? I just followed the trail. And that's all I know of how I got here." Sakura chirped. "But I'm sure we'll solve this."
"Hn." Sasuke growled and stretched against his chains, his muscles sore and burnt into a reddish colour. The shirt he had worn in his mind had been burnt to shreds and he only had his beige hakamas intact. Though he didn't care for modesty at this point. The blue chakra she was talking about was his core chakra. Whenever he used the cursed eyes of his lineage, he knew his chakra signature evolved into a dark red. At least, that's what Karin had told him before she had tried to take his pants off.
"Is the Dobe here as well?" Sasuke found himself asking, not really comprehending exactly how Sakura was able to loosen her core soul from her own body only to find him in here. He couldn't understand it, so he left it at that. Maybe the Dobe had helped her somehow. Naruto always had his way of coming in between people and their goals. But now, he realised, the Kyuubi container probably could have helped instead of ruined. Sakura only looked at him through the prison bars.
"No, he's not here. You... Really don't know what happened in Konoha?"
"The same old, I'd say. Intrigues and political games. I don't care." Sasuke said quietly. Sakura only shrugged.
"Well, it is no longer of your concern anyway." Sakura muttered. "How are Seiryu and Byakko?"
Sakura's green gaze wandered to his, hurt visible in her eyes. She had probably grown attached to the two summons who later betrayed her. Sasuke scoffed. He'd break her heart again.
"They're dead. Izanami made me kill them so he could drain their chakra." He told her and watched her eyes widen.
"What?" Sakura asked, her green eyes telling more than what that one word could. Then she clenched her fist. "Oh no- They're dead?"
Sakura was quiet for a while, then she knit her eyebrows together and her eyes were sad.
"Genbu and Suzaku will mourn their brothers." The pinkette murmured. Then she sighed and went to the cell's bars.
Sakura inspected the cell's iron bars, searching for the lock. She didn't find anything so she sighed and slumped down on the ground, positioning herself into a meditative position with her legs. Sasuke was chained right in front of her, the iron bars keeping the two apart.
"So, how long have you been here?" Sakura asked casually and her green eyes squinted at him.
"I don't know. Time is hard to tell when you're chained in a dark cell." Sasuke clipped, his bangs falling into his eyes as he stared at her.
"Surely." Sakura nodded to herself. "Any suggestions on how to defeat the gods that rule our bodies?"
"Not any that I could have thought of while burning." The black haired shackled man bit back at her.
"Hmm. There's no known technique for pushing Gods out of one's mind." She mused.
"I know." Sasuke seethed. "But we need to seal them back into their damned sword-prisons. Seal them the fuck up. But it's futile. It's over. You should just go back."
"Wait. Maybe it's not impossible." The pinkette breathed and her mouth quirked into an insolent grin. Sasuke snorted in contempt and disbelief.
"We invent a technique." Sakura said and her eyes brimmed with brightness, burning excitement.
"And how exactly are we supposed to do that?" Sasuke asked, his tone dismissive.
Sakura pondered for a while, glancing back to the darkness she came from.
"I have a split mind, you see. The 'Sakura' that Izanami thinks she has caged in my mind is just a part of me. I call her Inner, or sometime lately Kaira."
"So you have a dissociative personality disorder, then. Why am I not surprised." Sasuke said and his eyes watched her. Sakura didn't cringe, she only huffed. Sasuke then processed what she had said - that meant none of the Gods knew she was inside his mind. It dawned upon him.
"Oh, I know it's not completely healthy. I'm a little crazy, but really, who isn't? Either way, she was created when I was little. She was the me that I wanted to be, to voice my thoughts loudly. She was the aggressive part. The one that cared little for diets and appearances, of which my younger self had only in mind because of my mother. Inner was never afraid." Sakura explained. "And in later years, she became my support. My mind would have been broken by Izanami's whispers and her contract of blood binding me to kill a thousand men if not for Inner. She-"
"A thousand men?" Sasuke interrupted her.
"Yes. I'd prefer not to delve deeper into that." Sakura's eyes turned from jaded excitement to cold diamond in one second, her voice crisp.
"How many have you killed so far?" He persisted. Maybe she was more bloodied than he had at first thought. But how could Sakura, that little Sakura, even dream of killing so many?
"It is for me to know and you to wonder about."
"Don't be difficult with me."
"I'm not, Hime. You're just asking the wrong questions." Sakura clipped and Sasuke's eye twitched. He really didn't appreciate her new nickname for him. He really didn't.
"You should rather be asking 'how are you doing Sakura? Is everything well in the village? What is Kakashi-sensei up to? Have you seen him without his mask? How is Naruto holding up? Has he died out of ramen over consumption yet? Has he died in the search for you?' Hm? No? No such questions weighing on your heart?" Sakura asked curtly.
Sasuke said nothing, then he contemplated for a bit.
"Have you seen Kakashi without his mask?" Sasuke finally asked, not really knowing why this had piqued his interest.
"He has a mole. Under his mouth, a bit to the left on his chin. And he's unfortunately freakishly handsome, that pervy sleaze." Sakura snorted. "And that's all you have to ask?"
Sasuke rolled his eyes. This action seemed to get Sakura's fingers to twitch, but then she shrugged her shoulders, in a seemingly I-give-up gesture.
"So how will this split personality of yours help with the technique we are to invent?" Sasuke asked, frowning dissuasively.
"Firstly, we have the advantage of Izanami not knowing I am here. She thinks I am caged what with Kaira, my other personality, has taken my place. Same goes for Izanagi, he thinks I'm caged away. Secondly, I am here to free you. When I do that, I need your word that you will not try to kill me. It would be annoying to die in your mind, even though I don't know if I will truly die or just a part of me - but better be sure than sorry. Or you dying, for that matter. Thirdly, it seems like there is no such thing as time in this space. Cosmic time is the same for everyone, but human time differs with each person. Time flows in the same way for all human beings; every human being flows through time in a different way. But in here time is nonexistent, it's only an illusion. We have this to our advantage. Fourthly, Izanami told me that her presence as we see it is only a part of her true essence. Her body is kept in the Underworld where it's conserved and has been for millennia. This means she's not as strong as a god right now."
"Hn. I might be able to use my Curse of Hatred." Sasuke pondered. "They'll be caught in my illusions and see what they want to see, but see it as a natural development from the current situation. I will make it subtle, not like just throwing them into some sunlit field. And then we push. We need to be stronger than them."
"Sounds good." Sakura agreed. "But it won't hold for long, I think. We can use your eyes as a distraction and try to break free." She perused the cell with her squinting eyes.
"But first, I need to get you out of that cell." She said and wandered up to the cell's bars, feeling the iron hot, burning metal with her fingers. Her skin shed and it bled so her bones became apparent on her fingertips, but she still touched the glowing metal bars. She didn't back away and Sasuke cringed.
"Promise not to try to kill me."
"I will not kill you." Sasuke said solemnly. Not now.
"That's the most thoughtful thing you've ever told me. Oh and, perhaps... If I figure out how to make my chakra swirl in the right direction of the seal's labyrinth I'd be able to break it." Sakura was visibly concentrating hard, she started to breath harder and sweat pearled on her forehead as a green and white light shone from her melting fingertips. It seemed to be difficult, the dark maze of the seal almost trapped her inside, sucking her into the darkness of her mind. Then her eyes widened, yet they were dim as she saw only the chakra in the cell's lock.
"I see a light in the far distance within the seal!", she squealed.
"Try to concentrate all of your chakra to meet up at that point." Sasuke suggested tiresomely.
"Hime?" Sakura grinned.
"Shut up." She glanced at him with a sly grin and Sasuke regretted ever responding to that silly nickname.
A powerful crackling noise was made, like a door being shattered, her chakra fused and exploded with pinpoint precision at the core of the intricate seal and then it broke. The hand written signs over the cell's door frame disappeared slowly and seeped into the metal door. Sakura fell on the mindscape's dark floor from the exhaustion. She fisted her hand and her lips formed a victorious grin as she looked up at the huge door, of which she now knew was unlocked.
She got up and walked inside, the fires reaching for her form and she didn't flinch as the fire ate her skin. Sasuke only watched from his chained position. She walked up to him, burning. Everything was burning.
"Doesn't it hurt?" Sasuke wheezed. He was burning, tired to the bone, and she seemed unfazed by the fires.
"Only if I allow it to. The fires in Hell was a lot hotter to my other aspect. I could feel her pain vaguely." Sakura smiled and her eyes flashed with the knowledge of the whole world's pain.
"Oh? What are you doing here, little female bearer?" The voice of a god broke everything and Sasuke almost screamed. Izanagi stood at the unlocked cage door, the beautiful man glancing inside curiously. As if Sakura was an escaped animal pet.
"Fuck." Sakura snapped. The God looked at them with amusement in his sizzling charcoal eyes, but he didn't move.
"Hurry!" Sasuke wheezed and Sakura ran up to him, gathered chakra in scalpels in her hands and slashed at the chains. They withered away. Sasuke had no time to think about how the girl could break chains created by a God.
"Female bearer, come back with me to your body. You don't belong here." Izanagi said and smiled, waving his hand outside of the cell. "Izanami is not very happy with you. Your other aspect misbehaved in Hell."
Sasuke heaved himself up and felt how his chakra returned to his body. Sakura put her left hand on his shoulder which had blisters and burn marks. He looked at her, then he noticed the green healing chakra. The skin knitted itself over the wounds, the pain lessened and he felt how the muscles retracted and were recreated in seconds. So easily, she had healed his ravaged body without even looking at him. All her focus was on the god who amusedly waited for her.
Sasuke shook his head, then he turned on his Sharingan. The world spun in red and he threw several high level genjutsus on Izanagi. The God blinked, then he laughed.
"You are powerless. Your cursed eyes won't work on me." Izanagi smiled gently. "Go back to your cell, boy. I want the girl."
Sasuke growled, then he activated the Curse of Hatred. Orochimaru's gift. He sprouted wings and his hair grew and his eyes turned black with the exception of his Sharingan. Sakura looked at him and then clenched her teeth.
Her hands lit up with chakra and she ran out of the cell, straight towards Izanagi. The god expected her. Sakura spiralled over the god and let her chakra scalpels be shot off from her hands. Izanagi only waved them away. Sasuke found his opportunity as Sakura distracted the God and silently ran up to Izanagi. He sliced with his claws at the back of the god, but Izanagi only tipped his pinky finger back and stopped Sasuke's demonic hand easily.
With a push, Sasuke was thrown back into the cell by the force of Izanagi's pinky finger at the same time Sakura was thrown away.
"Say you disagree with the Merge contract." Sakura yelled at him and attained a fighting position as she got up fast, holding a hand over her ribs.
"Just do it!" Sakura snapped. Sasuke only looked at her for a second, then his eyes wandered to Izanagi.
"I... I disagree with the contract. I don't want to Merge with you. I want my body back. Go back to your sword!" Sasuke commanded and the chirping of birds sounded in the mindscape, electricity gathering in his hand. He didn't know how or why, but he knew his Chidori was real. It wasn't a figment of his imagination. He could use chakra inside his mindscape.
"No, not like that!" Sakura rasped. "More like this, the right words, like it's true..." Sakura took a deep breath and whispered her own name, but it was more than just a name. It was Sakura. Who she was. It wasn't a language he knew, but he recognised the feeling of her word as who she was.
Sasuke felt her name ring inside him.
A breeze in the wind, a flower sprouting on a sunlit field, a river coursing through a barren forest. The still glassy drop of water resting peacefully on a fallen leaf. The sour taste of bitterness and freshness of a lemon blended with the smell of wet grass. A lightning cracking open the dark sky, and the clouds parting gently in contrast to the violent strike. A glass window to the sky.
Even in his Curse of Hatred mode, even when he was exhausted to the bone, even when he was battling a god - he couldn't take his eyes off of her. He couldn't stop tasting the word on his tongue and he couldn't stop himself from getting high on the strange feeling.
"The God of Light Izanagi, I command you to leave Uchiha Sasuke's body. He never agreed to the Merge in the True Tongue. The World has heard me and agrees to my upheaval. Leave!" Sakura sang and Sasuke didn't understand her words, but they rang so true the walls vibrated inside the cage, the flames died out into glowing embers and the God screamed.
"How do you know the Divine Tongue? How can you make it binding? Impossible! I refuse!" The God screeched in pain as a light as strong as the sun shone around him, pulling at him, like little spiky hands of light.
"But at least I'll take your strongest memory with me." Izanagi said coldly as he lit up and stretched his hand towards Sakura.
"Come, strongest memory of Sakura Haruno. I declare ownership of you." Izanagi whispered.
Sakura screamed as a glowing little blue ball of her memory was snatched from her being and Izanagi smiled as he took it to his chest, carefully cradling it to him.
Then the light spectres pushed at him and he was shoved away forcefully. A pillar of light shot up into the heavens and Izanagi imploded.
The two were left standing inside the cell, ruffled and blinded, and then the mindscape wobbled and they were back in the real world.
Sasuke trembled and his legs gave away. It was night and the moon glowed above them. They were on a rooftop inside a village he didn't know. And he had full control over his body and his mind was empty. He got up to stand on all fours, breathing the fresh air hungrily.
Sakura slumped down on the rooftop, her breathing becoming harder and she clutched her heart. Seemingly, she had been pushed back to her real body as well. Sasuke was shocked and he saw how little chakra she still had. It was like something had sucked out 90% of it. He had never seen anyone conscious with that small amount of chakra left in their bodies.
"What did you do?" He asked, his eyes wide and his body heavy. The God in his mind was gone. No trace was left of him. He was free. He was fucking free.
"I-I can't breathe-" Sakura wheezed. Her eyes swam and she fell down hard on the bricks of the rooftop. Sasuke didn't move.
He had two options. First, get rid of the sword and find Team Hebi. That was the most logical choice, the one option which should have been the only one. The second choice, as he found himself at the pink haired girl's side, was what he wanted to do.
She was dying. Perhaps it was a side effect to knowing her true name, and speaking in that alien language. It had drained her chakra.
His hand hovered over Sakura's solar plexus and he slowly started the process of transferring chakra into her largest container of chakra still left. The solar plexus was the distributor of chakra into the veins and tenketsu points of the body, and if done slowly, no veins would implode of the chakra transfer. He noticed he was uncharacteristically gentle in the transfer, his pure chakra pulsing from his hand's palm into the girl's body. It was a strangely intimate process.
She had saved him. And he owed it to her. Her pink eyelashes fluttered and her hand wavered, then she gently laid it on the back of his chakra transferring hand. A gesture of gratitude? Sasuke frowned.
And that was when senbon hit his arm and he jumped away, over a few rooftops. Two of the senbon had buried themselves into his ligament and stalled his arm's movements with riveting pain. Sasuke ripped them out. Two men and one woman appeared at Sakura's side, and the woman started towards him. Her flak jacket and headband flaunted her village and Sasuke growled. What did Konoha do here? Where had they been when Sakura had been taken over by the Goddess of Death? Useless teammates, Sasuke thought, not really processing the contradiction in his statement.
The female Konoha nin pursued him and flicked more senbon his way, like a rain of deadly needles, and Sasuke activated his Sharingan just in time to see one of the senbon in actuality be disguised as the woman. When he saw her body two rooftops away be replaced with the senbon, it was almost too late when she swung a katana too close to his face. He evaded it and jumped off a chimney out farther into the night and away from the village. He criss crossed his tracks in the forest and left a few shadow clones to cover his trail with ripped off parts of his yukata which carried his scent.
Sasuke decided it wasn't worth a fight. He needed to recuperate and he wouldn't fight this unknown woman over Sakura. His chakra transfer had been enough for her to live a little longer. It was enough to even it out between them.
He escaped the woman with the hitai-ate representing Konoha and left the dying girl on the rooftop.
The Prodigy, Hyuuga Neji
"She's alive, but barely!" Shikamaru said, his breathing becoming shallow as he dragged down the black mask which represented the RTF under his chin. He crouched besides Sakura's unconscious body and held her head up, fluently checking her pulse and her injuries by the standard medic protocol. Neji saw the pain in his eyes.
"Hurry, get her the soldier pills. She needs a full pill map load of chakra boosting. The red ones."
"Who was that man? He was fast. And he evaded Yuka's senbon." Neji asked as he tried to get out the medical kit and the pills. Sakura was there. In front of him. His eyes couldn't stop looking at her. Her beautiful cotton candy hair swirled around her face, her creamy complexion a bit sweaty and her cherry kissed mouth was a bit moist. Neji felt his heart skip a beat.
"He had the Sharingan. I saw it. But he didn't trap me with it. He was... handsome." Yuka murmured quietly as she materialised in front of them.
"It must have been Sasuke, no way Itachi was here. Damnit! What did he do to her? Drain her chakra?" Shikamaru growled, got up when Neji put a few soldier pills inside Sakura's mouth and paced irritably beside a chimney. "Lucky we got here in time."
"Such a beautiful sword... It's like it's calling me..." Yuka said blankly as she took an abandoned sword off the rooftop tales. It was too late when Neji noticed what the sword was and Yuka had already released it from its scabbard. She dreamily stared at the blade which reflected the moon and Neji saw the ominous smoke like presence inside it reach for her eyes.
"No!" He yelled but Yuka's nut brown eyes turned black, the whites sucked up by the darkness, as she gasped. Then her expression turned to stone. She warily saw Shikamaru stretch his shadow binding technique towards her but she jumped away in a flicker, too fast. Her chakra disappeared completely. Her sclerae had been completely black.
Shikamaru let out a slight grunt of exasperation. Neji activated his Byakugan, but Yuka was gone. He sighed as his heart was beating furiously up in his throat and let his hand clench Sakura's white kimono.
"We can't pursue her. We need to get Sakura to a medic." Neji said sternly, his eyes flickering over Sakura's still body. "She's almost got no chakra left."
"But- Yuka has been taken over by Izanami!" Shikamaru said haughtily. "She'll just... We don't know what she'll do. Maybe she'll want revenge. How- did she break the contract with Sakura?"
"Our first priority is Sakura." Neji said and stroked Sakura's sweaty cheek. He noticed she had become colder. Her expression was twisted in pain and her rapid breathing lessened between each gasp for air.
"Fuck." Shikamaru snarled and ruffled his spiky brown hair, loose strands had been let loose of the updo. "So troublesome, I can't even... For the love of all Kami. Let's move."
Neji took hold of Sakura's limp body and carried it over the rooftops. She was so light. He found himself unconsciously wondering if she had been eating properly. The Nara followed closely, casting worried glances at the girl. Shikamaru checked their file on the village and discovered it was a civilian village, which meant no medic in the village knew how to deal with chakra exhaustion. They decided to find a secure location instead, where they could take care of her.
They found a little cabin up in the valley. It seemed abandoned and Shikamaru knocked thrice on the door and asked if anyone was home. None opened so they went inside. The cabin was far away from the village so none would disturb them.
Neji put Sakura on a bed and Shikamaru went to start a fire. Neji paced the room for a while, then settled down beside Sakura. They had fed her seven soldier pills, and that was by far enough to boost a soldier off the grids with synthetic chakra. The pain she was going to through after the adrenaline settled down was going to be hell. The price paid of eating soldier pills was high and that was why they only were used in emergency situations.
Neji shuffled through his bag and found a scroll. He opened it, made a few hand seals and out from the scroll handcuffs poofed into existence. Shikamaru glanced at them, raising an eyebrow, but not questioning Neji's decision to cuff Sakura's unconscious body. The Hyuuga clipped the cuffs around Sakura's wrists and ankles, the cuffs having sealing effects incorporated into them. They were made to capture high class criminals and to restrain any excessive movement. Shikamaru looked away.
"It's necessary." Neji mumbled.
Shikamaru found two cups and boiled some water, found a few tea leaves and brewed some for the two of them.
"I hope she'll survive." The Nara murmured as he blew the steam off the hot tea cup.
"Me too." Neji said and looked at Sakura. "She will. It's Sakura. She can survive the most freakish of things."
"Should we contact Kakashi Taichou?" Neji asked as he blew the steam off his hot tea.
"Not yet. I want to hear what Sakura has to say first." Shikamaru drawled and stretched his arms.
"I agree." Neji nodded. "But he needs to know about the sword and Yuka. I think she's going to cause some serious trouble."
"Yeah." Shikamaru sighed. "I don't think we can keep Izanami and Izanagi a secret anymore. They're out in the world somewhere and they're dangerous. Danzo should have a report on this as well. We need to caution every Konoha shinobi of the sword's destructive power."
A few hours later, Shikamaru noticed Sakura moving when he had finished counting their food supplies. Her pink feather light eyelashes fluttered open.
She woke up with a gasp, clutching her chest with the cuffs restraining her from moving any further. And then she saw them, her mouth opening wide.
"Shika! Neji!" She yelled and got hold of them both in a surprisingly strong grip, even with her limited movement. It seemed she didn't care about the cuffs. She started sobbing. Shikamaru found his face nestled in a cotton candy fluff of hair, almost suffocating. He didn't really mind though.
"I've missed you both so much! Oh, you're here, you're with me, I'm not alone, I'm not alone..." She sobbed. Then her viridian eyes widened.
"Wh-what? Where's Inner? She's gone! She's not in the mindscape garden- she's gone! How could she leave me? We're one! Izanami... She's gone too. The sword- it's gone. Her presence is gone. She- what if she have Inner? I'm- I'm alone. I'm alone!" She cried harder and pushed them both away. Shikamaru stumbled back, baffled at the girl's outburst. She looked down on her cuffed hands and breathed hard, her eyes wide.
"It's empty- my voice is echoing inside. It's cold. Inner, where are you?" Sakura's frenzied green eyes closed shut and she bit her lower lip hard. "She's not in there!"
"Sakura, you're having a mental breakdown." Neji whispered, somewhat calmly and soothingly as he tried to regain his neutral countenance. Shikamaru hovered behind Neji, uncertain on how to handle the situation. He was reminded of Sakura's breakdown after Danzo's punishment. It hadn't been pretty.
"I'm... You-", she said uncertainly. Her face was tear stricken and she clutched the fabric of the borrowed sheet. She tried to get up so she could rest her back at the wall, but she was too weak. She coughed, and Shikamaru clenched his jaw. She needed more soldier pills, but too many of them would put far too much stress on her solar plexus distribution of chakra to her tenketsu points.
"I'm a bit... Broken. Disoriented. Lost." She whispered, her distress palpable. "I'm missing a piece of myself. Izanami has abandoned me as well. I don't know what's going on. And you... You cuffed me?"
"We found you in the village of Ishigakure." Shikamaru said and went to her side. "Almost completely drained of chakra. And it's a precaution, with the cuffs. What happened? What do you mean she's gone?"
"The festival, the dance- Miura-san..." Sakura said and her green eyes blurred with tears. "They must have killed him to change places during the dance, with that man. Izanagi."
"Miura? He's someone who took care of my wounds after that man ripped my contract with Byakko and Seiryu to shreds. Miura helped me heal and train."
"Wait, Izanagi took your summons? That's impossible. The contracts are binding."
Sakura nodded, then she gulped. Her quivering hands went to her face, and she felt her cheek with her fingertips. Somehow, this action made her stop crying. She let a heavy breath blow through her nose. Like she was comforted by feeling her own skin, proving her existence, her control of her own body.
"You're not supposed to be here." She said sternly and her eyes became colder, her hand falling away from her face, the chains from the cuffs clinking in the silence of the cabin with the exception of the crackling from the fireplace. She caught the two men with accusing viridian eyes. "You've compromised my mission."
"What mission?" Shikamaru asked.
"The whole plot. You've ruined everything." Sakura snarled and angrily looked at both of them. "I thought you two were cleverer than this. Didn't you understand the political situation Konoha was in after Tsunade killed the Kirigakure leader? Huh?"
When she saw the oblivious glances Shikamaru and Neji shared, she drew a deep breath again and frowned.
"Wait..." Shikamaru whispered as it dawned on him.
"After the meeting and Tsunade's open apology to the Kirigakure village for killing their leader, they weren't happy. The new leader who emerged quickly after was a lot stricter and worked more within the shadows. They were planning on assassinating Tsunade. Reliable sources from Root gathered this intel. Kirigakure were operating together with Kumogakure, and they planned on invading Sunagakure. Tsunade needed to disappear for a while until everything had calmed down, so we faked her death and put Danzo in the position of Hokage."
"You didn't kill her." Shikamaru stated. His heart was about to cleave in two. "So the Council, you, Danzō and Tsunade-sama planned this whole thing."
"Yes. Tsunade's alive and breathing inside the Secret Library at the Hokage Tower. Probably drinking her ass off." Sakura said sourly.
"But- why did you have to do it? And why did you leave?" Neji asked, his neutral face on the brim of showing emotion.
"I'm on a mission of infiltrating the Akatsuki, you morons. And you've just about now destroyed the whole thing. They have eyes and ears everywhere. They probably already know you two captured me." Sakura snapped and took a shaking breath.
The chakra exhausted girl sighed heavily. Neji and Shikamaru glanced at each other. The Hyuuga clenched his fist. Why hadn't they been informed of this?
"I know it's not your fault. You were probably sent her to capture me on Kakashi's orders." Sakura said lowly.
"No... His order was more like, 'sure, try catching her, but don't be afraid of drawing some blood on that pretty little face of hers'." Shikamaru said and looked down on his hands.
"What?" Sakura asked, hurt visible on her expression. "So he really.. He really hates me now. It's not really that surprising though, I guess. He doesn't have the clearance to know about my mission."
"Yeah. It's kind of scary actually." The Nara commented. "But we know the truth now. I believe you, Sakura. We knew you wouldn't kill Tsunade. I admit, however, that I doubted you for a time. And I'm sorry for that."
"I believe you, too." Neji said lowly. He had the sudden urge to hug the girl and ask for her forgiveness, but he didn't. A scene played inside his mind, in the path of the Sekai forest, where Sakura was beaten mercilessly by Tenten on the forest floor. And Neji had just watched. He had just stood there and watched her head get kicked around like a ball of flesh. The Prodigy closed his eyes, something he rarely did because seeing was what he always did. Sakura saw it, but acted like she hadn't seen his discomfort and regret.
"Thank you. But- I need to get out of here. Where are we?" She asked and squinted her eyes around the room. Then her mouth opened in the form of an O.
"We're in Miura's cabin?" She asked and her chakra wavered as she tried to reach it around the house, sensing, reaching for the old man's presence.
"He's not here." Sakura collapsed back to the bed caused by the stressing action of using her chakra sensoring. Her breathing increased to heavy wheezing. Shikamaru moved his feet worriedly up to the side of the bed.
"Careful there. We just found this place. We thought none lived here. No tools of living in here is left. The remnants of the fireplace was old." Neji said and reached a hand towards Sakura, and she didn't move away from his palm as he touched her forehead. It was sweaty and hot.
"I need to do a quick medical scan. Be still." Neji said and activated his Byakugan. His eyes saw Sakura's tenketsu point glow weakly with a red light from the soldier pills, replenishing her chakra. But there was another, blue and sparkling chakra source at her solar plexus. It was powerful and foreign, and it was obviously the cause of a chakra transfer. Neji wrinkled his eyebrows as he carefully watched the pulsing light blue chakra. It did no harm, so he didn't think more about it.
"It's done. Nothing is critical anymore, but your chakra is still too thin." Neji said. "We can spare one hour or two to look for Miura. I can do it since my Byakugan can see more than Shikamaru. But you need to rest. A chakra exhaustion fever is settling inside your body's central nerve system." The Hyuuga said and didn't care about the slight shiver which went through his body when he touched her hot skin. Sakura's big green eyes watched him.
"Miura is old and have grey eyes. There's a scar on his left arm going horizontally. Shinobi of high calibre. The villagers know him as the Eremite. Please... Please tell me if he's dead." Sakura said and fell back into the pillow with green unreadable eyes settling somewhere far away. Shikamaru nodded and went to get a few more blankets.
"Where's Izanami?" Sakura asked, her voice hollow. "When I was unconscious, she wasn't there in my dreams."
"One in our team, a kunoichi called Yuka who's a former ANBU and who was recruited by Kakashi into the RTF, took Izanami. She was probably taken over and she ran away. Izanami must have broken the contract she had with you. We couldn't do anything."
"I see... Poor girl." Sakura whispered, then looked away. An uncomfortable silence settled upon them, and Neji fidgeted.
"Would you kindly uncuff me, Neji-san? The metal is cold and uncomfortable." Sakura asked and pointedly looked at her cuffed hands. Neji glanced away.
"I can't do that. Not yet. We need confirmation from Danzō-sama and the Hokage's home office, that what you're saying is true. I believe you, I do, but we have to be sure. It's protocol. Always double check."
"I see. Always double check that the suspected murderer of the Hokage really didn't kill her Hokage and that she's on an undercover mission to infiltrate the Akatsuki. All according to protocol." Sakura said sarcastically and sniffed. "But I do understand the position you are in. Following orders are what we both do. It's what we do for our village."
Then it was quiet. Neji tried to get Sakura to look at him, but her eyes were glued to the sparkling fireplace. Even though they had had the fire going for a couple of hours, it was cold in the atmosphere.
"I'm sorry, Sakura." He said quietly when Shikamaru left through the door. "I-"
"I'm sorry, too." Sakura said frostily and her eyes were so green, like a lush and flourishing forest at the end of spring. Neji couldn't look at her more than that, so he nodded and left her.
A man who could see everything, didn't see the grim expression which settled on the pink haired girl's face. And then she closed her eyes as her body blazed with the chakra exhaustion fever.
The Quiet Woman, Takara Yuka
She had a goddess within her mind, a Goddess who once slept within the beautiful sword she held. She ran faster and faster through the woods. Yuka, who was only but an ordinary girl from an ordinary Clan. Yuka, the quiet weird girl in the corner of every room. Yuka, the oddball virgin. Yuka, the smartass. Yuka, the bitter bitch. Yuka, the one who cheated her way into ANBU. Yuka, the show-off. Yuka, the mute.
Yuka, the container of a Goddess.
Now, who was the weak one? She laughed inside her mind. She was powerful. She ran up the side of a tree and then spiralled through the breezy night air. The wind caressed her short strawberry blond locks. She would help Izanami-sama take over the world, starting with burning Konoha to the ground. She had a place in the world. She wasn't worthless! She laughed out loud, scaring a flock of birds she passed by. They panicked and flew downwards to the dark forest.
Oh, she'd have a good laugh at her former bullies. She'd laugh at Takashi when he burned and screamed for her help. She'd watch his skin fall in crispy bits from his face, see his eyelids burn away and the eyeballs explode in blood and gore.
She stopped with her thoughts suddenly. Before, she'd never wanted that to happen. She understood why Takashi had denied her love. She understood the bullies had only been children back then, and they hated themselves more than they hated her.
Yuka frowned. When had her thoughts become this dark? She was not a hateful person, only timid and keen on reading dusty books. She liked her senbon, she loved her caring mother, she appreciated a beautiful autumn evening. She never wanted to harm anyone if she hadn't been ordered to...
They hate you.
A hot wind whispered in her ear, and she realised she truly wanted them all dead. They'd get what they deserve, she growled, for ever even throwing stones at the container of an almighty Goddess.
The Goddess of Death, Izanami
Izanami worried inside the sword's stale prison.
Her omnipotent presence was burning away the girl called Yuka's body bit by bit. Yuka hadn't noticed yet, but Izanami's power was eating her flesh from within. She couldn't even Merge with the pitiful girl since her body would implode. The girl fell so easily to her whispers of death and destruction. She was too weak. She had so easily swallowed Izanami's sob story of sleeping inside the sword, Yuka having awoken her and that some humans had sealed her inside the sword a long time ago. She also accepted that a handful of shinobi from Konoha had hurt her badly, and Yuka somehow became protective of the Goddess and swore to avenge her. Izanami snorted.
Yuka's body wasn't compatible. Izanami needed to find another one, and fast.
Izanami commanded Yuka to steer her running towards the Rashamon village to the North. Izanami knew of an old Temple there and she only hoped some devotees of the Fallen Goddess were still operative there.
"But what about Konoha?" Yuka asked worriedly. "I want to destroy it. Now."
"There is a time and place for everything, child. Wait patiently, and you will be rewarded with the blood you crave." Izanami sweetly told the dying girl.
Yuka smiled toothily, nodded and continued to run up north.
The Man with a Borrowed Eye, Hatake Kakashi
The team dispatched to fetch Sakura and to see if the rumour was true had not sent a mission report on the current situation. He was in the city of Snow with a team from the Retribution Task Force, following a lead on Sakura - but it had shown to be a ghost rumour. What they had found was a hooker wearing a pink wig, seemingly a popular prostitute because she acted like the rumoured Cherry. Apparently, the civilians enjoyed the rumours of Sakura. And they also dreamed of fucking her.
Kakashi stretched on the hooker's bed. She hadn't even been able to please him. The wench called Cherry laid unconscious beside him, sprawling completely naked and sweaty on the white sheets. There was an ugly scar on her stomach which she had tried to cover up with makeup, but she had sweated it away. The pink wig lay a few feet away on the dirty floor of the brothel. Her true hair colour was a dreary and boring blond. Her eyes weren't even green.
Kakashi shuffled through his pocket inside the pants which had been forcefully dragged off him. Luckily, he had sent backup to Neji's team in Ishigakure, to see that everything was going according to his plan. He found the money and threw them at the hooker. The papers whirled around and settled on her back and bottom.
The Prodigy, Hyuuga Neji
A few hours later Sakura and Shikamaru stood outside of the Cabin when Neji got back. They hadn't removed the handcuffs, but since Neji had inserted a small tracker device inside her stomach she had been let go of her ankle cuffs. Neji arrived just in time to see her form a few hand seals, then the nape of her neck lit up. Two large clouds appeared and her animal summons materialised in front of her.
"We thought you had forgotten about us, Sakura-sama." Genbu said and bowed. Suzaku followed his lead. "Why are you cuffed? Is there a threat?"
"It's nothing, don't worry about it." Sakura said calmly and Neji felt his heart clench as he heard her words.
Sakura then noticed Neji running up to her. She nodded at him, then turned her attention to her summons. Genbu and Suzaku watched the two male ninja with burning eyes, but they didn't say anything.
"I'm sorry for not contacting you earlier. There's been a lot going on." Sakura said and bobbed her head down.
"No trace of Miura. I've scanned a perimeter of a hundred and fifty yard radius originate from the center of Ishigakure and I haven't been able to locate him. Greetings, Suzaku, Genbu." Neji said sternly and bowed together with Shikamaru towards Sakura's summons. The heavenly beasts acknowledged the two Konoha nin with a blink and nothing more.
Sakura gave him an unreadable glance, as if she'd already known this from his expression. Miura had disappeared.
"Seiryu and Byakko are dead. Izanami is gone. She got hold of another host called Yuka." She lowly told her summons and averted her eyes. The large bird and huge tortoise looked at each other and the pinkette stilled.
"We are aware of this. We felt them die." Suzaku said and flapped his large vermillion wings. "They screamed for us."
"I'm sorry. If I had known-", the pinkette started.
"We are sorry, too. But they betrayed us, and they betrayed you as well. There was nothing we could do. Nothing you could have done." Suzaku chirped.
"Can we do anything for you, Sakura-sama?" Genbu asked, his baritone voice slightly shaking the trees nearby and leaves fell from the branches.
"No, not at the moment. I just wanted to tell you. And I wanted to know if you were alright." Sakura murmured and reached out a hand towards Suzaku. The vermillion bird closed its yellow burning eyes and let her cuffed hand touch his beak.
"Your gentleness and worry is highly appreciated, Sakura-sama. We are alright as long as you are." Suzaku sang and Sakura smiled. Neji felt suddenly out of place at Sakura's side, as if he intruded on their companionship.
"We can see your chakra is thin. Let us provide you with some of ours." Genbu commented and shuffled up to the pink haired girl.
"I'm fine, Genbu. But thank you. I think someone gave me chakra..." Sakura murmured.
"We gave you seven red soldier pills." Shikamaru said casually. "It'll start hurting in a few hours, so we have to start moving soon."
"Yes, I feel the chakra boost still." Sakura said. "But there's another chakra inside me. At the solar plexus center."
"Maybe Miura gave you some?" Shikamaru offered as an explanation.
"Perhaps. But I don't really recognize it." The pinkette said and frowned, then she turned her attention towards her two summons. "Either way, it was nice to see you, Genbu, Suzaku. I will call for you soon."
"Please do, Sakura-sama. We will wait." Genbu said and bowed and Suzaku followed his lead. Sakura smiled and then chanted a recall of the summoning. The two beasts disappeared in an another cloud of smoke, the gas spiralling up into the sky like a pillar of clouds.
"I've packed up. Are you ready to go?" Sakura asked the two male ninjas as she strapped her rucksack tighter over her shoulders.
"Yes. We'll head to the border of Fire and discuss on further actions. How are you feeling?" Neji asked and Shikamaru went inside to get their light luggage.
"The fever is held back by a medical tea I brewed. It will hold for a couple of hours at least. My chakra pools have been refilled, but the foreign chakra is hard to handle and distribute. It's too wild and does what it wants." Sakura said curtly. Neji nodded.
An uncomfortable silence settled between the pinkette and the prodigy. A breath Neji didn't know he had been holding was let out as Shikamaru came back from the cabin, grunting something about the weight of the bags being unnecessarily excessive. Sakura's shoulders seemed to relax as well.
They walked together in the woods, keeping a slow pace since Sakura couldn't strain her chakra resources yet. They were heading to an inn where they'd get a hot meal and discuss further actions. Neji glanced at Sakura.
"What happened between you and the Uchiha?" Neji asked, breaking their silence.
"Uchiha Itachi? I've not met him recently." Sakura asked, her expression confused as she avoided a fallen branch on the path.
"No, Uchiha Sasuke." Shikamaru added, rolling his eyes.
"Who?" The pinkette asked, her viridian eyes oblivious. "I thought Itachi was the only Uchiha left after the massacre."
"What do you mean who? Your former teammate, the defector, the apprentice of Orochimaru?" Neji said irritably.
"I've never heard of him. And my only teammate is Naruto. What nonsense are you talking about?" Sakura laughed.
"You are kidding, right?" Shikamaru frowned.
"You don't remember Sasuke?" The Hyuuga prodigy tilted his head. "Did you hit your head back there or something?"
"What are you guys talking about? Who's this Sasuke person?" Sakura asked, her voice audibly getting firmer and annoyed. "Should I know him?"
"Don't you remember being sucked dry of chakra?" Neji asked. "On the rooftop."
"I-" Sakura caught herself in the middle of the sentence, and looked contemplatively down on her moving feet. "I don't- I can't remember."
A breeze went through the woods and Neji felt the strange presence of a threat. He turned on his Byakugan and he saw a shape of chakra behind Sakura.
But it was too late. A silent thud was heard, and Sakura looked down to her chest. A large shuriken sprouted from her chest cavity and blood dribbled down her abdomen. Piercing organs and one of her lungs.
Sakura looked up to Neji and her eyes were full of surprise. She coughed wine coloured liquid and trembled.
"Ouch." She spluttered. "That hurts."
Tenten grimly ripped out the shuriken downwards from behind and Sakura's guts were spilled out. The intestines hung outside of her body and Sakura tried to gather them up and put them back inside, but her movement was limited by the hand cuffs. Blood was everywhere. Neji was frozen to his place. Shikamaru stood at his side, just as still.
It was too gory to see.
Tenten raised an eyebrow as Sakura wobbled and turned around to see who had spilled her guts out.
"The defector has been eliminated. Mission status: successful." Tenten said neutrally, her face blank.
"Tenten..." Sakura coughed and blood ran from her mouth down her throat.
"Sakura!" Shikamaru ran up to Sakura just as she fell down, her hand grasping at an intestine. It was like she was gathering a long bloody thick rope into her open stomach.
"Byakugou Seal." Sakura wheezed in Shikamaru's arms and suddenly, energy gathered around her body. Tattoos started to spread on her arms, her body, her face, from a small purple rhombus which materialised at her forehead. The purple large lines ran downwards on her arm and pulsed with chakra.
It was like she almost lit up with the energy. Green healing chakra covered her whole body and surged towards her abdomen. Her hands shoved the intestines inside her sliced open stomach, and the blood began to lessen in its gory pulsating flow.
Tenten snarled and started towards Sakura's healing body with the bloody shuriken raised in a throwing gesture, but a man appeared fast in her way.
"Don't touch her." Neji growled in front of Tenten, shielding her view of Sakura and Shikamaru.
"Have you defected as well, Neji-san? Have you also fallen to her manipulations?" Tenten asked, hurt audible in her cold voice.
"You don't know anything." Neji took an offensive stance, and activated his eyes.
"Not you, Neji. Just- not you too." Tenten pleaded, holding the shuriken between them.
"Calm down, Tenten. Let us explain." Neji growled.
"No!" Tenten yelled, her voice filled with scorn. "All you will tell me will be lies! You're under that bitch's influence. You fucking traitors!"
The Cloud Watching Boy, Nara Shikamaru
"I've had enough." Shikamaru growled and gently put Sakura down on the ground as he watched her wound heal slowly. "Sakura doesn't deserve this."
The young man with spiky brown hair made a few hand seals with one hand, and the other he threw three kunai towards Tenten. She avoided them by rolling away on the ground and snarling as she did, spitting 'traitors' from her red mouth with a hint of venom. Shikamaru made use of an old trick and yanked back two kunai with the thread attached to them, successfully surprising Tenten and slicing her cheek and shoulder when they whirled past her from behind.
Then, as it dawned on Tenten's expression, she was stuck in Shikamaru's shadow. The kunai left burrowed into the ground behind Tenten also had a thread attached to it, and underneath the thread Shikamaru's shadow extended and stretched. Tenten was paralysed as Shikamaru didn't move.
"You-" Tenten growled. Then, Shikamaru fell back with his head. Tenten did the same as she had to reflect what he did, since she was in his shadow. As Shikamaru fell back on the ground on his hands in a bridge like posture, Tenten's head hit a rock behind her.
The kunoichi almost passed out, and in that time Neji was fast to spring up to her and seal her tenketsu points with a round of the Gentle fist. Shikamaru breathed hard, with rage and adrenaline pumping through his veins and he walked sturdily up her body, Neji crouching over her to fasten chakra restraining chains.
Tenten's face was still and blood splattered, unconscious as it was, and he just couldn't help himself. Shikamaru stuck his tongue out. Neji flinched at the action.
A light laughter masked as a wheeze came from a pink puddle of hair and green healing chakra.
Hi guys! Fast chapter, this one. Next chap will probably take some time since my University courses are skyrocketing in exams and homework and you know, fun stuff. Hope you liked this chapter either way.