Author's Note: Yes, I know, another story. But I can't help myself. I really wanted to write this before it slipped my mind. I got the idea from a blog I read a while ago. If I find it again, I'll post it. It was kind of interesting. But anyway, let me know what you think. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I own nothing!
Warnings: Nothing much, maybe language.
Word Count: 5,063
How did I get here?
That was Sakura's first thought as she opened her eyes to see the bright blue sky above her. In the distance she can hear the birds chirping and the sound of waves crashing against a bank. Her entire body feels heavy and her head is pounding painfully. The heat of the sun beats down on her, warming the revealed skin that her tattered regulation chunin garbs no longer covers. Sakura watches as a flock of birds fly over her, a particularly big one circles a bit before flying off.
That's right, Sakura thinks, sucking in a pained breath, I ain't dead yet.
Sakura slowly pushes herself up, feeling like her body is being held down by lead. It's then that she realizes that she is aching painfully all over the place. Sakura lifts her hand to push her stiff pink hair out of her eyes. Just running her fingers through the thick pink locks, makes her cringe in disgust. She has no idea how long she's been laying there, but it has been too long. And it feels like Sakura hasn't bathed in even longer than that, much to her chargin. And her hair tie is gone, she notes. Not that it matters all that much.
The last thing Sakura remembers is...
Heat. Fire. The dead walking. So many wounded. War. Battle cries. The Ten Tailed demon. Madara Uchiha. The four previous Hokages, living. Fighting along side them. Sasuke. The Sage of Six Paths. Obito Uchiha's death. The other nine demons getting sucked up into a statue. A dead Goddess. The Sharingan. Sasuke's. Obito's. Kakashi's. Madara's. Recognition in those black and red eyes. A look of surprise. The parting of lips-
Sakura groans, rubbing her forehead to try and ease the pain in her head. She can't really recall the events leading up to this moment, just fragments. Flashes of images and sounds that seem slightly out of place and nothing too concrete. Sakura was in war, she was with Sasuke and Naruto, getting ready to try and save the world. And then things started to go down hill and her memory starts to get fuzzy.
Sakura takes a moment to survey the area. She's by a river bank just a few feet from a thick forest. Looking as far as she can one way and then the other, she can tell that the river goes as far as she can see. The river is moving slowly and the edges of Sakura's feet are in the clear, sparkling blue water. Her clothes are stiff and feel crusty. Sakura can only assume that she was somehow taken down river and finally managed to wash up shore. She must have been barely conscious when she pulled herself out because Sakura has no memory of it.
Come to think of it, was she originally anywhere near a river? Oh, for the life of Sakura, she can't seem to recall. One moment she was in war, fighting alongside her friends and the Shinobi of the Alliance for their lives, and the next, she is waking up at a river bank. Confused and hurt. And the only the bright side is that she's been out long enough for her chakra to have replenished. She immediately begins to check herself for wounds and heals all the ones she comes across until all she has to do is send healing chakra to her head to ease the headache.
Once that's done, Sakura pulls herself to her feet and takes a moment to stretch out her senses to see if there is anything dangerous in the area. After a full minute of sensing nothing, Sakura finally, slowly begins to peal the clothes from her body.
First to go is her tattered green chunin vest that's no use anymore. She pulls out all of the things in the remaining pockets and activates the destruction seal on the collar and the vest burns away. She pulls everything from her medical pouch and her kunai holder, taking stock of everything in it, before adding the things from her vest to the list and making it organized and easily accessible should she suddenly need anything. Then she checks on the rest of her clothes.
Her dark blue, long sleeve, chunin shirt is missing the left sleeve all the way up to her shoulder. The right sleeve is unevenly ripped up to her elbow. The remaining bit of the sleeve has slight discoloration from being elbow deep in the bodies of other human beings, trying to save their lives. As for her dark blue chunin pants, those are stained with mud and specks of blood, and stiff.
Sakura pauses again, feeling out with her senses for danger. After another minute of nothing, she quickly removes her shirt, making quick work on ripping off the rest of the sleeve on her right arm, feeling the heat from the sun beating down on her back. She pulls off the now useless wrapping that tied up the bottom of her pants and pulled off her shoes. Next she removes her pants and makes quick work of removing the crumpled bottoms so it would be about to the middle of her calves.
After that, she puts the shreds of clothes into her bag to use as a make-shift wrapping should she need it. Then she works on cleaning her clothes, first her pants, then her shirt. She tries to scrub the stains away, annoyed that there isn't any sort of soap that can be used to clean her or her clothes.
Something leaves Sakura on edge. She has to quickly get cleaned up and head back to the village and figure out what's going on. She can't hear any sounds of battle and no one has come looking for her, Sakura can only assume that she's really far from the battlefront, if there still is a battlefront. They never covered this before going to war. If one passes out fighting the dead goddess and wakes up miles away from the battlefield, or at least assumed miles away, what do they do then? Try and return to the front line? Go home and get information, restock, then head back?
Sakura just didn't know.
She lays her clothes out to dry on a nearby large, flat rock and quickly strips her underwear and bra before flying into the water, hating feeling so exposed. She quickly rubs her skin, cleaning any and all remaining dirt, blood and sweat, trying to ignore the sudden shock of the cold water hitting her bare flesh. She takes a deep breath and sinks beneath the surface of the slow moving river, running her hands through her hair, trying to clean it as much as she can without any soap. She reemerges and shivers heavily, making her way out of the water back over to her undergarments.
Trembling, she stands beneath the high noon sun, letting the rays start to warm her body. She finally pulls on her underwear and bra, sitting down on the flat rock her clothes are on, silently willing them to dry quickly. Sakura picks up her shirt and starts waving it around, trying to dry it quicker. She does this until her arms hurt before she finally gives up and pulls on the wet shirt on and then the pants, struggling to pull them on. She almost falls back into the water but manages to keep herself steady.
Not the ideal situation, but it's going to have to do, Sakura just hopes that it's warm enough that she doesn't catch a cold from this. Or that the water isn't somehow infected with something.
Sakura straps her weapons back on and looks back up at the sky, trying to figure out which way to the Leaf. She just hopes that she isn't beyond the village. Well, she'll know if she hits Ame. Sakura is about to leave when she turns her attention up river, wondering if maybe it was smarter to just return the way she came. Try and find the front lines again. If she went the Hidden Leaf, then would she be considered AWOL? Even if she returned to the front line as soon as she could? Kami, she wished they covered this.
No, Sakura wasn't going to risk it. She'll go and see how far this takes her. Maybe she can find the front line, or at least a village that she can use to orient herself and find out her next move.
Sakura sighs, turning to head up stream when she immediately feels the hairs on her neck stand on end. She freezes, expanding her senses to find the source of the danger when she feels the presence at her left flank. Sakura spins around just in time to avoid three kunai hitting the soft sand where she was standing just seconds before.
Green eyes flash up toward the woods to see two shinobi standing there, decked out in battle armor. Sakura falls into a defensive crouch, opening her mouth to call out that she's not the enemy, but it's at that most inconvenient moment that Sakura realizes that her throat is completely dry. She's been so wrapped up in making sure that she cleaned herself up and forgot to take note of her own health. Sure, her injuries were healed up, but she's still dehydrated. Man, she is out of it. Tsunade would probably kick her ass if she found out.
Unfortunately, these guys don't seem all that interested in talking. One of them, sword in hand, jumps toward Sakura, swinging the sword in an arch to smoothly sever her head from her body. Sakura ducks under it just in time, but feels the air brush the back of her neck. With his stomach left open, Sakura pulls back an arm and adds just enough chakra to bruise internally, and thrusts it forward, managing to collide with his stomach. The distinct sound of metal crunching beneath her fist is heard, before he goes flying passed the other guy, deeper into the woods only to stop when his back connects to a tree.
Sakura doesn't have much time to enjoy the small victory because the other guy is on her in moments. She barely has enough time to bend backward to avoid the kunai swipe to her neck. She manages to kick her foot up, balancing back on one hand, and kicks the bottom of his hand, knocking the kunai from his grip. She hears it plop into the water behind her. He hisses in pain but is quick to recover, leg flying out to swipe her foot out from under her.
Sakura falls flat onto her back, groaning a bit in pain, and is slightly winded before she quickly regains herself and rolls out of the way from his foot stomping where her stomach would have been. Sakura quickly rolls to her feet, sending chakra to her hand, performing a medical ninjutsu and jumping at the man. His eyes lock onto the glow of her hand and he ducks out of the way of her strikes, avoiding her hand at all costs. He stumbles back until a stray root snags the back of his foot, making him stumble. Sakura closes her hand into a fist, pulling back the jutsu and just enhancing her strength instead before reaching out with her other hand to grab the top of his chest guard, pulling him closer to punch him in the chest.
He skids across the ground for a few yards, somehow managing to miss all the trees between them before rolling onto his side and curling up, winded.
For a moment, Sakura watches to make sure they're both still alive, before turning away, picking up the three discarded kunai for her own use and heading back up the stream, silently hoping that whoever those guys were get help soon. She has no time to waste, her friends could desperately need her and she's goofing around, getting herself cleaned up and fighting off a couple of idiots, when she should be high tailing it back to the front line.
Yes, now she is starting to think clearly. She stops one more time to drink a few handfuls of water before racing on. Sakura has no idea how long she was running, but eventually she comes to a stop to rest. The heat beats down on her enough to make her work up a sweat and dry her clothes, although those are still uncomfortably stiff.
Sakura leans heavily against a tree trunk, looking around for a moment, not seeing anything to indicate a village or the battlefront. After a moment of debate, Sakura finally crawls up to the top of the tree to get an areal view. Once she get's to the top of the tree, she sees nothing for miles in all directions. It's starting to get late and sun is going to be setting soon. Sakura is completely and utterly lost. She doesn't know how long she's been out cold, how far downriver she went or if she's even heading in the right direction.
For the first time in Sakura's very short life, she is completely and utterly helpless and alone. She's in a strange area with strange shinobi that don't seem to care about the Alliance (they were probably Ronin or rogues, she'll have to remember to check for headbands if she runs into any more) and she has no idea how to begin about going back to the warfront because she can't even find it.
There doesn't appear to be a village for miles, which is lovely and completely Sakura's luck, and what's worse is she's out at night on her own. She has to avoid both shinobi and bandits and/or highway men, and the predators of the night. Giant snakes and large white tigers and anything else that could swallow a grown man whole without a moments hesitation. That and there has to be wolves out here somewhere. Sakura can just feel it and she doesn't want to deal with them either, surprisingly enough.
"Tomorrow," Sakura says aloud to herself. Her voice sounds strange, since she hasn't heard it in a while. "Tomorrow, if I don't find the Alliance, I'll head to the Hidden Leaf. If I have to explain in embarrassing detail to Lady Tsunade about what happened, I will. I just need to get some where familiar. At this point, it's all she can focus on." There was no one there but Sakura, and she knows it's crazy to be talking like there is someone there but it makes her feel better to hear noise. The forest noise just fades into the background too easily.
Sakura jumps down to the branches and, while staying in the forest with the river still in sight, continues to follow it up stream jumping from tree branch to tree branch, being mindful not to step on a weak branch and go plummeting twenty feet to the forest floor. Yeah, because that's exactly what Sakura needs. Fall twenty feet and break her ankle. That would be the perfect end to an overall disappointing story. Sakura shakes her head, clearing her mind so that she can focus on where she's going and forgetting about everything else for now.
Sakura has to stop a few hours later. It's getting so dark that it's too hard to see the branches in front of her anymore so she has to stop for her safety, but there is something else that made her stop as well: the large, full moon shining down on them in the sky.
Sakura jumps up to a higher branch to get away from more predators, before lowering herself onto the branch with her back against the trunk of the tree. She tries to get in as comfortable of a position as she can with the rough bark of a tree digging into her back and bottom. She pulls her legs to her chest and wraps her arms around them, pressing her forehead onto her knees, closing her eyes. She can't look at the sky, at the moon, it makes her heart start to pound hard in her chest in a mixture of fear and anxiety.
She almost expects that when she looks up at it, she will see the red moon to signify that Madara's plan had worked. That her life was officially over before she really even got to live it. That she wouldn't be with her friends at the end to face Madara in that one final battle. When being involved in this situation, Sakura always wondered if the war would end while she was back with the medical core from all five of the great nations and hear the news as it spread through the ranks, being one of the last to cheer in victory.
Or if she would be standing there, beside her friends and her team, there to help deliver the final blow. When she arrived alongside Naruto and Sasuke to do battle with them to protect the world. That the three of them - four, when she thought of Kakashi, and six when she thought of Sai and Captain Yamato - would be there together, as a team. And even more, if all their friends were there, if the entire Shinobi Alliance could be there. And maybe they were. Maybe everyone was there, rearing up for the final strike, ready to risk it all on this last move.
And Sakura was not there.
No, she was here, in the ass end of nowhere, wondering how to get back. Wondering how she even got here and if her friends were okay. So much could have gone wrong and they needed Sakura and she wasn't there. For some strange reason to which she still can't remember, she's here, and not where she should be. With her family, battling for the sake of the world and the future.
And it kills Sakura. It yanks on her chest so hard that she can feel the prickle of pain behind her eyelids. A sob wracks her body, making it shake. Sakura forces herself to keep quite, not wanting to attract the attention of any predators in the night. Man, or beast. She forces the pain down as far is it can go in her heart and locks is up tightly, trying to pull herself together.
She has to try and sleep now, so that she can get moving as soon as possible to try and find her way to her friends as soon as she can. If any of her friends die before she has the chance to get there, Sakura will never be able to forgive herself. She already can't forgive herself for Neji's death. Seeing a white Zetsu clone take Neji's form and then her deliver it a royal beat down. It was like a painful premonition.
She killed the clone that looked like her friend and it ultimately took her friend's life away. If she had just been on the battlefield with them, she could have saved Neji. She was strong enough, she's sure of it! She could have, but didn't and now his death weighs heavily on her heart, even to this very moment. Behind her eyelids she could see the dead face of all of her friends and senseis and all the medical staff from all the different nations. Everyone she ever met and loved, dead before her very eyes, laid out before her like some kind of sick joke.
Sakura wanted to weep the night away, but instead forced herself to remain silent, to watch the images of her dead loved ones and silently promise herself that she will make it in time to save them all. But in order to do that, she first must attempt to sleep.
Sakura didn't get a wink of sleep that night, much to her chargin. She set out again just before dawn, aching all over the place and feeling horrible. The night had chilled her arms and legs where the skin was exposed. She can tell immediately that while she feels like shit now, she's going to really be in for it tomorrow. She rubs her hands up and down her arms, trying to warm them with the friction. Sakura's stomach growls loudly, something else she ignored yesterday for favor of trying to figure out where she was and how she was going to get back to her friends.
As she ran along side the stream, she kept her eye open for anything edible. At this point she was willing to eat anything. She wanted to cook up a fish and eat that, but that would mean a prolonged stop and she wanted to wait until later on in the day before she did that. It was about an hour later that Sakura finally had to stop and eat, lacking in the energy to keep going.
She waded into the water and in no time, managed to catch a single fish. She quickly killed and at made a fire, feeling like a zombie. Building the fire took a really long time. She was about ready to give up when the sticks finally ignited. It's not often that Sakura really wishes for something when it comes to her abilities as a shinobi, she would rather just work to make up for it, as Tsunade taught her, but it was during this ordeal that she desperately wished that she was capable of using a fire style technique. It would have sped this process along.
Cooking the fish took even longer, which only made Sakura feel like she was going to die at the drop of a hat. But eventually she was able to eat and practically gobbled the fish up. Sakura wasn't much of a fish eater but that fish must have been blessed by Kami because it tasted wonderful. And she ate it in record time without having to worry about being lady-like in front of anyone.
Feeling better with a bit of food in her stomach Sakura was able to continue on, toward the mountains in the distance. Sakura had been so out of it, that she didn't even realize that the river she was following went around a mountain just a few miles in front of her. Did that mean that she was actually close to the Leaf instead? But then what happened? Sakura's head hurt.
Regardless, if she was near the mountains of Konoha, then she was on the opposite side, because she couldn't see the Leaf. She'll just have to climb the mountain, now that she's got more energy and see if she can locate her village and figure out what's going on. With new-found vigor, Sakura races toward the village at top speed. As she draws near Sakura realizes that she is in fact facing the back side of the honorary mountain that the Hokages' faces adorn. She recognizes it. She's lived by this mountain all her life and stared at it for countless hours. It was hers. She was home.
That means, had she followed her first instinct, it would have led her far away from the Hidden Leaf and then she would have been more lost. That's another praise to Kami. Sakura made a mental note to herself to become more direction savvy. One of these days she's not going to be this lucky and she'd rather not tempt fate again.
Sakura quickly scaled the back end of the mountain. If she goes up this way then she'll be closer to the Hokage tower where Lady Tsunade's advisors are. She won't have to do the awkward walk of shame through the entire village with everyone wondering why she was there when she should be with her master and team. This just cuts down on it.
By the time the pink haired girl reaches the top, she's winded and tired and she feels like she hasn't eaten for months. That fish was burned off quickly and it was just her sheer force of will that kept her from just stopping half way up and crying there uselessly for a while. Kami, after this war is over, Sakura is really going to have to take some time to herself and work off the stress that's the size of this mountain on her back. Perhaps that was why it was so hard to climb it?
Sakura is staggering to her feet, making sure not to fall backward off the mountain, because that'll definitely kill her, if not paralyze her for life, before looking up to see a crowd of people. There is a very distinct line down the center parting the two sides. A few near the back stare at her with annoyed expressions on their faces - at first - but after ten whole seconds of staring at her, they looked downright confused.
"Hey!" Sakura says, making some of the people jump and spin around, hands going for their weapons as if they expect an attack. "What are you guys doing up here? You can't be up here," she says, narrowing her eyes. "Who are you people? This isn't your home," she makes note, realizing that she didn't recognize a single one of them. This puts her on edge, she grabs out two kunai from her kunai holder strapped to her leg and holds them out in front of her.
They are going to attack the Hidden Leaf while hardly any shinobi remain? Dirty trick. Sakura scowls, suddenly wishing that she had eaten ten fish as opposed to just one.
"Who are you, boy?" one of the men says, narrowing his dark green eyes. Sakura's eyebrow twitches slightly in annoyance. Was he trying to be cute? Sure, she was filthy and disgusting and certainly smelled like a man, but she was obviously a girl.
Sakura spins her kunai around for a moment, taking note that all eyes followed the motion with deadly accuracy. Up on the mountain with no tree cover to block the wind makes the hairs on her arms, legs and neck stand on end and her entire body shiver at the cold. Even the sweat she had just worked up was already cooling down, making her skin feel tight. Had it always been this cold? In the thick of war, everything always felt blazing hot.
"It doesn't matter who I am, this is my home," Sakura snarls, widening her stance. "If you're thinking about attacking, don't. I'm not in the mood." Sakura's sure she was acting a lot more tough than she was appearing. Every blow of the wind that ruffled the thick hair of the men and the loose fabrics of their battle armor passed through her taking more of her precious body heat with it, making her shiver more. But she refused to back down. Wait, battle armor? Where had she seen that before?
"It's you!" A man to Sakura's left exclaimed.
Sakura glances over at him to note that he was one of the two guys that she fought with when she first woke up. He was the one who Sakura fought second, the one that put up more of the fight.
"Oh," Sakura says in mild surprise. That explains where she's seen the armor before. It's kind of scary at the fact that they had to have somehow passed her at some point and she didn't even know it. That left her both uneasy and annoyed with herself. It was because she was so out of it that she was missing even the smallest of things. She has to focus.
Sakura shakes her head and narrows her eyes. "Are you here to attack my home?" The man that she beat glowers at her, annoyed at being brushed off.
That makes the predominantly male group shake looks.
"What home?" one of the men from the opposite side says, raising a dainty dark brown eyebrow.
That makes a blood vessel bulge in her forehead. "This is my home, asshole and you guys are trespassing." Did he think she was a moron? What home? The huge damn village right behind them, pompous ass. Damn, Sakura really has to get her anger in check. The brown haired man narrows his eyes dangerously, clearly not liking her tone.
"What's going on back there?" Someone from the other side of the group yells.
"State your business now, or leave," Sakura threatens, her patience running thin, glaring back into the brown haired man's black eyes, not willing to back down. This is the last thing she needs. If they've come to attack Konoha, Sakura's going to give them one hell of a time.
"Trespassing? You live here?" A kinder voice says, walking down the separation in the two sides with two other men flanking him. Sakura's eyes turn to the obvious leader of the bunch.
"Yes and you are tres-" her words die in her throat at the sight of Hashirama Senju walking toward her with a worried and slightly depressed expression on his face. Sakura's jaw drops.
"I am sorry," Hashirama says. "I was certain that no one lived here. Have you been here long?"
She didn't know how to answer him, if she thought she could, all that Sakura was currently capable of was staring at the First Hokage with a wide eyes and a loose jaw, mimicking a fish. Open, close, open, close, open; a small, strange noise, then closed again.
Her eyes flicker to the man to Hashirama's right, seeing, but not believing, the Second Hokage, Tobirama Senju. And to Hashirama's left, Madara Uchiha.