The large forest that was known for its high death rate was strangely silent as if holding its breath. The sound of battle earlier that made the sudden silence almost deafening as no one moved.
Kin grinned from behind Sakura, her soft pink tresses snared angrily in the Oto kunoichi's grasp.
"Your hair is so shiny and soft," she sneered. "If you had time to care for your hair, maybe you should have been training more!"
A hard tug forced a pained cry from the pinkette's lips as Kin carelessly yanked it about, driving the point home.
"Trying to be sexy?" She teased again before addressing her comrade. "Zaku! Kill that Sasuke guy in front of this pig."
Zaku's smirk was ever present. "Sounds good."
"Hey, now," Dozu began.
'No, move Sakura!'
Sakura drew forward.
'I won't let you-'
Another painful yank forced the smaller girl to cry out again.
As the weight of the situation slammed into Sakura her vision began to blur.
'I can't move...'
Her nails dug into the dirt as tears dropped down onto her scratched up knees. Her back hunched as the tears escaped her eyes that were clenched shut. She tried hard not to let them see her like this. They'd hurt her new friend and were planning on killing her crush and yet she still couldn't find the strength to do something about it.
'I'm...being a nuisance again.'
She thought about her teammates that relied on her and Lee who had risked his life. For her. Someone unworthy of such an act.
'I've always been protected but the moment they needed me most, I failed...'
She pleaded internally for this to all be another dream. For her to wake up having fallen asleep on guard duty. Dangerous and stupid but this would have all been a-
"Alright. Let's do this."
Her stomach dropped and bile burned at her throat, a shock running through her system.
'No! Kami, please. No!'
Zaku took his time walking passed her as her mind raced to come up with a plan. Any plan.
'Get free, get free!' Her mind screamed at her repeated.
Before she knew what she was doing, she had drawn a kunai. She clenched her eyes shut as she tried to build what courage she had to move, to take that final step like throwing the first punch.
"It's pointless," Kin hissed. "That won't work on me."
A fire stirred in her belly as rational thought drifted further from her. Managing to look at her captor over her shoulder, Sakura gave an uncharacteristically smug smirk.
"It's not meant for you," she taunted.
"What!?" Kin's eyes widened in shock as the girl before her reached behind with the kunai and cut clean through her hair.
Light. That was the first thing Sakura could think of. It was so much lighter now. Kin fell away with the rest of her hair. Her bangs swayed in front of her eyes and she heard her hitai-ate land somewhere behind her but she wasn't focused on that. Her heart pounded in her chest, her blood pumping through her veins.
She stood as her teammates appeared in her mind, knowing they were relying on her. She saw their backs and she saw her weakness as clear as day. Even Naruto, who she lectured time and time again was leagues in front of her. Her eyes landed on Lee as he struggled to keep consciousness and her heart ached with guilt. The three boys flashed so vividly in front of her eyes and her hands clenched. Everything else left her mind, but the knowledge of who were her enemies and that her allies needed her now more than ever.
'Please,' she whispered inwardly. 'Watch my back this time.'
"S-Sakura-san..." Lee murmured before he lost consciousness.
"Kin, kill her!"
Her hands moved as fast as they could as she could. She had no plan, something completely uncharacteristic of her, but the thought of her teammates forced her into action. From behind, she felt Kin barge her with senbon before she disappeared in a puff of smoke, only to be replaced with a log.
She ran at Zaku with her kunais drawn and wasn't surprised when he sent them back her way. Instinct drove her as she stopped and performed another substitution.
The replacement disappeared and she came down on him from above, already forming the seals for another Kawarimi.
"I'm telling you, it's not going to work more than two or three times," he smirked.
'It's pathetic that this is the only way I know how to fight back,' Sakura scolded herself.
"This is good enough for you," he insisted as he tossed four kunai at her.
Blocking them as best she could, she was pierced in her abdomen, her left shin, her right thigh and her arm that had blocked her face. The adrenalin blocked out most of the pain but knowing she actually took kunai into her body almost left her mind in a state of shock.
"Now where is she..."
Pulling the kunai from her abdomen, she finished her descent when she saw Zaku look up at her in surprise.
'I've got you now, you bastard!'
She was aiming for his head, but his arms came up and blocked it. Driving it deep, she used the only weapon she had left.
Her teeth. Pinning him to the ground, she latched onto his left arm. No longer than a second later was he beating at her head, trying to get her off.
Blood was leaking from her head now and nausea hit her in waves and she knew she had a concussion or two. With her eyes clenched shut, she didn't want to see the dark spots that were probably blurring her vision. In the darkness behind her lids, she could see her boys more clearly.
'I'm so sorry,' she cried. 'No...I...I have to...'
Blood filled her mouth and her body's natural reaction coughed it up. With that moment of weakness, Zaku managed to kick her off him. She landed in a heap.
She had nothing left. She had failed. Her eyes stared dully at the ground as a curtain of hair allowed her this moment for herself. Delving deep inside her, she mustered all the strength she could to sit up. Her pupils were still dilated and her gaze unwavering.
'I have to protect them!'
"You bitch!" He screamed at her, his hands coming up again for another sound blast.
Her eyes caught something blond in the bushes and her eyes trained in on it.
Shock filled her when she saw her rival and ex-best friend, Ino, and her teammates. Her eyes widened, just as Ino's had when she noticed Sakura had seen her.
The surprise was short lived as the soundwave hit her, throwing her back and through several trees until one finally stopped her. She dropped like a ragdoll, landing painfully on its large roots and rolling.
"Sakura!" She heard someone call.
She looked up to see Ino, Shikamaru and Choji running to her. Her bruised and beaten face managed a smile as she looked up at her, looking every bit like the lost child Ino remembered her to be.
"I-Ino," she whispered, reaching for her.
The sound of footsteps crunching on the leaves halted Ino in her place. They hid behind one of the trees as Zaku came looking for her broken body. Several ribs had broken due to the impact her body made of the trees. She couldn't bare to move from the pain shooting through her body but even so, she continued to reach for Ino.
"I-Ino," she begged. "H-Help me."
Tears fell from Ino's eyes as her hand covered her mouth. Her legs shook in fear as Zaku took his time looking for Sakura and slowly she began to shake her head.
"Ino?" Sakura asked again.
"I-I'm so sorry," she whimpered.
Then she turned and ran, dragging her teammates with her.
Sakura's heart stuttered as an icy chill came over her.
"Ino?" Sakura called. "Ino, come back!"
The sudden realization shook her to the core as Team 10 got further and further away. The tears were falling faster, mixing with the blood on her face and stinging the open cuts.
Her best friend had abandoned her.