Chapter FORTY THREE

Sakura knows that there is a difference between seeing something and being able to react to it, but most of the time, being able to see is a requirement of being able to react. She sees some sort of technique being prepared, sees the chakra moving around their enemy's body as they flash through hand signs, and she is ready for whatever might come, even if it is as something unexpected as a head heading straight towards her teammate.

If she is prepared, she finds, she can react to it. She is standing before Sasuke faster than the head reaches him, careful of the distance between them, and she takes great satisfaction in being able to see their attacker's slightly confused face before her heel digs comfortably into the ground and she releases chakra from every chakra point within her.

Her control over chakra makes up for the ferocity and speed Neji's height and body build allows him, and she knows her kaiten is just as powerful, if not more so, than her brothers.

Out speeding her spin can counter the defense, but Sakura knows how difficult that can be, especially if one is not expecting it to begin with. The Kusa lady pulls her head back to her body, an unreadable look in her eyes.

"A Hyuuga?" She asks. "I suspected as much, the eyes and the veins and all, but you don't look like one, do you?"

Sakura suddenly feels uncomfortable with the attention. She feels Sasuke come up from behind and a hand rests reassuringly on her arm.

"What do you want?" She asks. She tries her best to keep her voice from shaking, but she doubts she does a very good job. She may have saved Sasuke from whatever their opponent had been trying to do, but the more of her arsenal she reveals, the easier it would be for the lady to counter them. She is probably more than skilled enough to fight them both blind, after all.

Then suddenly, Naruto bursts out from the trees beside them and Sakura is shocked at how much of her awareness their opponent is taking up. The snake is dead and the blond looks a little bloodied, but otherwise fine.

"You guys okay?"

Sakura does not nod, because she does not know how long they will be fine for.

"For now," Sasuke mutters, and she knows he feels the same.

The lady's smile widens, and she places a hand over her face. "I guess it is like Konoha to bunch all its prided assets into one team," she hisses. "An Uchiha, a Hyuuga, and the Hokage's son."

Sakura stiffens because while she had suspected it, it is slightly different after receiving confirmation. "You are after us specifically?" Even as she says this, she thinks her target is very unlikely to be her. She was a branch family member; even if it were someone after her Kekkei Genkai, her eyes would be destroyed the moment she died.

Naruto is the son of the leader of an entire village, and while she has never asked about it, there is something very, very off about the boy's chakra, almost as though there is something else mixed in with the boy's signature.

Sasuke is the second heir to one of the most influential clans in Konoha, and she knows the Sharingan is a dojutsu just as valuable as the one her clan takes pride in.

"I was after your brother once," the lady says, and Sakura realizes she is talking to Sasuke, who stiffens. "I was after his eyes, see? But after seeing everything you have to offer, I must say, you are definitely his brother."

Sakura does not have to look back to see Sasuke's Sharingan eyes taking in their opponent.

"Who are you?" Naruto demands.

The lady chuckles. The hand on her face slowly falls away, and Sakura stiffens when she sees that the skin appears to be peeling right off. "I am Orochimaru," she, he announces, "And if you want a rematch, I suggest you pass these exams as fast as you can!"

Sakura recognizes the name, and her first thought is how the exam authorities, even the village, had missed the entry of such a dangerous figure within its territory.

She knows that there is a difference between seeing something and being able to react to it, and this time, she just barely catches the coming attack. Now that they know Sasuke is the snake's apparent target she moves to stand before him and sees Naruto do the same. She has no idea why she thinks it will be a good idea, but they do so anyway.

Orochimaru goes for Naruto first. She sees chakra being prepared in the Sannin's hand, but she cannot open her mouth to warn the blond in time. The technique, whatever it is, slams into her teammate's stomach and the blond flies backward and into a large tree. He in unconscious even before gravity takes its toll, and she throws a kunai to pin him to the thick trunk.

She is glad his jacket is more durable than it looks because it holds his weight and falling from that height would hurt him at best. While he appears completely knocked out and his chakra looks to be going haywire, boy's body I already to regain control of it. He should be fine.

"We will definitely be seeing each other again, if you manage to defeat the Oto-nin who answer to me."

She cannot keep up with what happens next. It is partially due to the sudden killing intent that once again threatens to crush her lungs, but it mostly due to the sheer speed at which Orochimaru comes at them. She can spin faster, but it would have taken her longer to start.

She sees the man lunge forward, and she sees Sasuke fall. She sees what happens in between too, but there are simply no words to describe what exactly that was. All she knows is that suddenly, there is something dark and evil and wrong growing within her teammate as he collapses with a scream of sheer pain and agony. Her body moves on its own, and she is blindly lashing out as the Snake Sannin pulls away with a satisfied look on her face.

Sasuke hates showing weakness, she knows this. She has seen Sasuke try to hide even the smallest of scrapes and suppress any hints of discomfort even if it is only teammates around. And yet, the boy does not get up.

"What did you do to him?" She snarls. She is torn. She wants to run to Sasuke's side, but she fears turning her back to the enemy before her would get them both killed.

"Just a little something to remember me by," the lady turned man hisses. Then he is sinking into the earth and Sakura can see it the moment he vanishes without a trackable trace. Instantly her body feels lighter, and she rushes over to Sasuke's side. The Uchiha is clutching at his neck, whimpering in pain.

Her first instinct is to take out whatever is growing beneath his skin, but the rational side of her tells her she knows next to nothing about seals, and she forces herself to not forcefully inject her chakra into her teammate.

The pain appears to have completely knocked him out. She forces herself to calm down and think. Orochimaru had said something about Oto-nin. She did not know what exactly he meant, but it cannot be anything good. Her Byakugan is still strong, and she is confident she can keep it up for much longer. She quickly searches for a place they can hide, then retrieves Naruto, who is also still out. She carries her unmoving teammates to a large group of trees she had spied.

Sasuke is burning up, and the source appears to be the strange mark on his neck. She wipes him down a few times, but she can feel the panic within her returning. Her Byakugan continues to give her information, and she can see a team of Genin wandering around in the edge of her vision. She shifts through her pouch, then Naruto's and Sasuke's, and retrieves several handfuls of projectile weapons and lots of ninja wire.

She goes around laying traps, more for comfort than actual dependability, and she returns to continue her vigil beside her unconscious teammates.


It is a while later when she sees someone enter her vision range. She looks up because unlike the other teams that had wandered in and out, this team is headed straight for them. She runs the wet cloth over Sasuke's forehead and checks on Naruto one more time, then slowly gets to her feet.


Hanakotoba:

Mandragora

Fear/Illusion


Slight changes and stuff...(sorry...)

Darque: So, it's been a while? I'm sorry about the delay...life has been busy...

Raven: It has, sorry about the long silence.

Darque: On a side note, we set up a discord server, where we'll be posting updates and the likes about stories, maybe put up polls, fanart, things like that.

Raven: -as well as when we'll be dead for a while-

Darque: So if you're interested, catch us on /bHw6Ddh

Raven: There isn't much there yet, but we'll work on it in the near future. Next time~

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