I Don't Own Naruto
'Why doesn't she understand? Why don't any of them understand? I have to do this. My clansmen demand it, Itachi is pure evil and I have to be the one to end it. Why does she continually make me push her away? Why can't she just leave me alone.' he wonders before his thoughts are interrupted.
"Take me with you." she said and in that moment he was truly touched. She really does want to help him but this road, this path of an avenger is not hers to walk. It is his, his responsibility, his curse and he must bear it alone. With a burst of speed he is behind her, hitting her in the back of the neck he says "Thank you" before knocking her out.
The moment of sincere gratitude, the brief moment of indecision is all it took for irrevocable changes to occur. Sasuke's momentary distraction didn't allow him to notice the two kunai slicing through the air, not until both had stabbed him at the back of his knees. He screams in pain before he too is knocked out by his assailant.
"Teme" is the only thing he can say before he ties Sasuke up. Naruto, may not be known as the most observant person in the world but he is deeply empathetic, even if he can't always intellectually understand complex emotions, he is aware when someone is hurting. That is why he discretely followed Sakura. She was distracted and could have been in danger, loyalty and extreme fondness for the pinkette demanded he see to her safety. He started to leave once he saw Sasuke but a mere impulse told him to stay, causing him to hear his best friend's intention to leave the village and Sakura's willingness to go with him. They'd both abandon him without second thought, he realized and that hurt him deeply. He'd do anything to save his teammates, even when they aren't particularly nice to him but they'd leave him behind. Shaking off that thought he flares his chakra like Jiji taught him in case he was ever in danger in the village and he waited for the ANBU to arrive.
Sakura soon regains consciousness and sees Naruto standing over a bleeding and knocked out Sasuke.
"Naruto, what happened?"
"I stopped Sasuke from betraying the village after he attacked you for offering to do the same" he said, his voice subdue. He can't even muster anger at his teammates.
Hearing this, Sakura's mind goes into overdrive. She was not the smartest kunoichi in the class for nothing and knows if Naruto tells the Hokage what Sasuke and she said they'd be in an incredible amount of trouble. Revocation of Shinobi license? Chakra sealed? Prison time? All three are possible and she just cannot allow that to happen to the boy she dearly loves. But how can she save him, and herself? Going over the procedure she knows there will be a mind walk to validate the night's events. Before the ANBU arrive, Sakura dashes away, much to the surprise of Naruto. Her desperation making her faster than she's ever been, if this fails then she'll truly lose Sasuke forever.
Cat, Hare and Rat finally arrive to Naruto's and Sasuke's location, Cat instantly demanding a report.
"Hai, Cat-san. I ran into my other teammate to night and she seemed upset and distracted. Giving the time of night and location I was concerned for her safety so I shadowed her. She eventually ran into Sasuke and the two began to talk. Apparently, Sasuke was intending to leave the village for Orochimaru and when she could not convince him even offered to go with him. He then got behind her and knocked her out. I took the opening to sink those kunai in his legs and then knocked him out in a similar manner he used on Sakura."
"Where is Sakura, Uzumaki?"
"When she woke up, I told her I heard everything and she ran off, to where I don't know."
"Ok, we're going to take Sasuke to the Hospital and you to Ibiki" seeing the orange clad blond pale, Cat continued, "it's standard procedure, Uzumaki. It isn't that we believe you but both of your teammates are unable to talk right now and Sasuke may be bleeding out."
"Cat-senpai, should we leave a guard for the Uchiha?" asked Hare
"No, he won't be mobile for days, just cuff him to the bed and tell the staff authorized personnel only."
"And what of his teammate?"
"We can find her in the morning, it's unlikely she left the village." Cat would come to regret her lack of rigor regarding this situation.
Frantic knocking on her bedroom window woke her up. It did not scare her for she is a serious kunoichi and does not scare easily, she was just energetic in her return to the waking world. Retrieving a kunai she approached the window to see her current/former best friend, she honestly doesn't know anymore, in a state of panic.
"Sakura, what do you want, it's really late."
"Ino, I-I need your help in protecting Sasuke-kun."
"What happened to Sasuke? How can I help?"
Sakura then takes the time to fill Ino in on the details of the night. As Sakura informs Ino of Sasuke's near betrayal she feels less inclined to help the Uchiha until Sakura argues that the curse mark changed Sasuke and was the cause of his actions, saying he required help, not punishment.
"What do you want me to do?" Ino asks.
"Can you implant false memories? Ones that could fool a mindwalker? We need to plant the fake ones in our heads so we have contradictory evidence to whatever Naruto is telling the ANBU."
"Officially, no. The Yamanaka Clan has never developed nor has any knowledge of that kind of jutsu.
"Unofficially?" asked Sakura.
"Unofficially, I don't feel comfortable doing this, I haven't mastered it, it's a deep family secret. Oh, and what about Naruto?" seeing Sakura's eyes go wide, "You never even considered how this might affect him, did you?"
"He's close to the Hokage so if have different versions of the event she may just drop it or give each of us a slap on the wrist."
"And what would you want me to transplant?"
Sakura paused for a moment. She knew, in some sense, what she was doing was wrong. Naruto stopped a traitor and should be praised but her devotion to Sasuke necessitates she protect him first, as he would do for her, she truly believes.
"Sasuke confessed his love for me and asked me to be his girlfriend. Naruto overheard and attacked Sasuke, accidentally knocking me out and injuring Sasuke."
"NO. I won't do that. You're totally blaming Naruto for everything, don't you care?"
"Of course I care. He's my teammate but he's not the one at risk, he's not the one that needs help. I'll make it up to him eventually but if we don't save Sasuke he'll either defect or potentially be executed. Please, Ino! Don't you want to save him?"
"And you're sure Naruto won't get in any serious trouble?"
"How can they punish him when things are inconclusive?"
"Fine, lie down. Since it's a short memory and just happened the process won't take long but you'll need to sleep here tonight. I'm assuming Sasuke is in the hospital so I'll have to go to the hospital. Keep in mind, these memories will only last a few days, I haven't mastered the process yet."
Running through some hand signs, Ino starts the process, hoping she won't come to regret helping her friend and longtime crush.
The following morning did not greet the Godaime Hokage warmly. Not ten minutes in her office and she was being briefed by Ibiki and three of her ANBU regarding an incident between team 7. Learning that Sasuke attempted to defect to Orochimaru almost set the new Hokage off but she had to internally pump her fist when she learned that her surrogate brother/son figure stopped the little bastard.
"Have the other two been interviewed or examined?"
"No, Lord Hokage and given what Uzumaki said, I have reason to believe they'd both lie. I'd recommend allowing Inoichi search their memories." stated Ibiki
"Fine, retrieve him and have him go to Sasuke first, also have an ANBU bring Sakura to T&I so we can get this mess sorted. Why couldn't that little asshole defect during Sensei's tenure?"
"I guess it's just your special kind of luck, Hokage-sama." stated Ibiki, dryly.
"Everyone is a freaking comedian."
After scanning two thirds of team 7, Inoichi is livid. He knows there were memories implanted into the teens, Inoichi has yet to teach Ino how to remove any trace of implantation. As he's heading to the Hokage's office Inoichi mind is cycling through options, wishing he had Shikaku's mental prowess right now. He could easily just tell the truth and let the traitor and that foolish girl sink but there is a distinct possibility that Sakura would implicate Ino. That, in itself would be bad, but if there was an official record of Yamanaka being able to create false memories, their standing in the international community as reliable and trusted intelligence gatherers would be all but ended. No more would having the word of a Yamanaka be considered sufficient proof for anything. 'Ino should have known better,' he thinks as he has to put the future of his daughter and his clan against that of Naruto. 'Naruto' he says internally.
The story of one Naruto Uzumaki is one best not dwelled upon, for it breaks the veteran shinobi's heart. To think he is about to sacrifice Minato and Kushina's kid to save his own bacon, a kid who stopped a traitor efficiently and has proven to be a loyal and diligent Konoha Nin. Going through Sakura's memories he saw that she had no real malice but her near obsession along with myopia will lead to negative consequences, especially considering an erroneous assumption she made.
"Inoichi, report." said Tsunade.
"From the memories of both subjects, it appears Genin Uzumaki attacked Sasuke in a fit of jealousy as Sasuke was confessing his feelings for Sakura."
Ibiki, who was in the room to witness the report of the findings is shocking. Telling when someone is lying is a hallmark of his skillset, you have to read a person to be able to sufficiently torture them, pushing them just past their limits and no more. To hear Inoichi come away a completely different scenario is utterly shocking. It made Ibiki take a long look at his longtime comrade. He noticed Inoichi's body language was off, tense when this is such a trivial matter. His micro expressions are giving the impression of suppressed anger and disappointment, also some guilt. He's not telling the truth, something is wrong and Ibiki knows it, a quick look shared between him and the Hokage lets him know she knows it too.
"Inoichi, I would like you to perform a mind walk for Naruto since he gave us a completely different accounting for last night's events."
"With apologies, Hokage-sama but given what he contains I cannot perform a mind walk nor allow any of my clansmen to perform it. Doing so with a jinchuuriki is an known and could potentially kill us."
The slight squint of her eyes is the only sign Inoichi received that his Hokage was not pleased with his answer. "Dismissed, Inoichi."
"He's lying." stated Ibiki.
"I'm aware. Unfortunately the only way to prove it would be to have one of his clansmen go against him and for something like this, on behalf of Naruto? Won't happen." replied Tsunade
"Yes, especially if how he saw the conflicting memories involves a long buried clan secret."
"Also, I haven't been here long enough to make an enemy of the clans, especially after the invasion. It just isn't the time."
"What does this mean for Uzumaki? There's very little in the way of evidence other than his word."
"I know," said Tsunade. "I'll summon the elders so we can go over our options. Whatever we decide is going to wreck him and he may never trust me again."
"I don't know much about the kid but if you let him know you believe him I think he'll understand."
"We'll see, Ibiki. Turtle, please gather the elders. Oh, is Sakura still at T&I?"
"No, Hokage-sama, she was released after her scan."
A dull pain in his knees that became shooting once he moved is how Sasuke awoke. The headache, and the bright lights of what he deduced was a hospital room wasn't helping matters.
The feel of cold steel lets him know he's been handcuffed to the bed. He closed his eyes to try to remember what happened. He remembers leaving but also confessing to Sakura, which he knows is something that didn't happen.
"Sasuke-kun, we need to talk."
"I have nothing to say to you, Sakura. I'm here because of you, because you couldn't mind your business." Sasuke hissed, irate at what Sakura costed him. Killing Itachi feels further away than it has in years.
"I was trying to keep you from making a serious mistake. I didn't know Naruto would be there but we have a bigger problem."
"You mean that half remembered fiction in my head about Naruto attacking me in a fit of jealousy? Pfft, you wish we'd fight over you."
"Don't you dare make me sound like some vapid fangirl, I did this to protect you. If the Hokage found out Naruto was telling the truth you'd have been punished."
"Maybe, maybe not. I could always just blame the curse seal for messing with my head. But, I won't go along with your little story, I won't give you the satisfaction after thoroughly ruining my path to get the power to kill Itachi. All because of some childish crush. You've been nothing but a burden since we've been a team."
Sasuke's words were greeted with a slap across his face. "How dare you! I protected both Naruto and you in the forest of death. I protected you last night when I could have turned you but I didn't. And what do I get in response? Just your cruel, hateful words?"
"I never asked you to help me. I never asked you to care! Besides, let's get something straight, you and two other teams protected us in the forest of death. As far as last night, you probably had someone else help you, too. All you do is cry and wait to be saved."
"I can't believe I stuck my neck out for you. You weren't worth it, you never were." Sakura said between sobs as the deep well of love she felt for this bitter, little boy all but vanished. "I need to tell Tsunade-sama the truth."
"Yea, and get your coconspirator in trouble just because I hurt your feelings? You're so selfish."
"I'm selfish? You were going to betray the village for your own personal mission."
"Yes, but so were you. Matter of fact, had I said yes to you coming along you wouldn't even really care so don't pretend to be loyal to the village."
"Shut up, I was going to try to protect you, to try to convince you to return."
"How can a person with no strength protect someone? How can a personal that has relied on someone else for every real challenge protect anything! I didn't need you, I need to kill Itachi. I need power, not romance. Not friendship, power."
"You're just a black hole, Sasuke. You just absorb everyone else's concern, attempts at friendship and kindness. You just take and take and take but give nothing back while leaving others cold and depleted in your wake. And because of what I asked my best friend to do, I can't even admit to the lie. I hate you Sasuke Uchiha, I regret having ever known you."
"And you aren't even important enough to regret knowing. But tell me, Sakura, if I'm so terrible, how could you do this to Naruto? You say all I do is take but how are you any different?"
Sakura releases a chuckle, "I'm not."
"So, are we in agreement?" asks Tsunade
"It's shameful but it must be done." answered Homura.
"What about the other two?" questioned Koharu.
"The other two will be dealt with, this I assure you." replied Tsunade right before they heard a knock at the door.
"Enter." Tsunade demanded to be greeted by an anxious looking Naruto.
"Hi, baachan. Am I here to talk about Sasuke? I hope you won't go too hard on him, I think that seal on him has messed with his head."
"We are here to discuss last night's events but Naruto I ask that you don't interrupt me, no matter what. I need you to promise me that you won't speak until I give you permission."
"Ok, I promise" Naruto says growing concerned.
"First, Naruto, I want to say that I believe you. I truly believe Sasuke was trying to defect. Ibiki believes you too and he's a human lie detector. Unfortunately, somehow Sakura and Sasuke managed to get memories showing you attacking Sasuke out of jealousy."
Naruto's eye nearly bulge as he tightly clinches his fist, straining to keep his promise.
"Because you involved the ANBU there has to be an official ruling on this matter. Now, if there were uncontested or incontrovertible proof that would be one thing but there are too many missing or ill fitting pieces to the puzzle. It makes no sense for you to have attacked Sasuke and then signaled the ANBU knowing Sakura could disprove your version, for instance. However, there is a preponderance of evidence favors Sasuke and Sakura's version of events. Because Inoichi has declined performing a mind walk on you, due to your condition I have no choice but to come down against you. Chunin Uzumaki, you will be suspended from active duty for no more than three years and placed in the shinobi reserves. You will not be assigned any missions, inside or outside of the village unless you have a specific expertise that is required for the success of the mission. Your apprenticeship with Jiraiya is also put on hold during your suspension. You will not be allowed a promotion during the extent, meaning you cannot become a jounin for at least three years.
"Oh, your promotion for the mission to retrieve me was mistakenly held up, it officially went through last week." Tsunade said before giving him a fierce hug. "I'm so sorry, Naruto. Sometimes you aren't allowed to do the right thing immediately but I promise I will find a way to get to the truth. I will make this right. Now head back to your apartment, Jiraiya will be by later to talk with you, there are some things you need to know. Some information you've deserved for a long time."
"Thank you, baachan, for believing me." Naruto said before exiting the office, hurt and confused and experiencing shock that his "best friend" and the girl he loves seemingly lied to protect themselves and caused him to be punished.
Back in the office, Tsunade wipes away a few stray tears as she prepares for her next three guests, who thanks to her ANBU arrive at the same time.
"Kakashi, Sasuke, Sakura, it is good to see you. We have some things to discuss." the Hokage said with a vicious smirk.
The walk home occurred in a daze as Naruto couldn't believe what happened. For the last few hours he had been going over the day's developments. His team had, from all appearances betrayed him, all to save Sasuke. Always Sasuke. Kakashi only trains Sasuke. Sakura only sees Sasuke. No matter what he does, no matter how hard he tries they only dismiss his existence while drowning Sasuke in praise. The genius, the naturally talented one. The more he thought about it the more he came to resent his team, the more he wished he was never on that team. Concluding that they were never really his friends and Kakashi was never really a sensei. As soon as he thoughts started to take a darker turn, Naruto tried to repress them. He doesn't like thinking the worst of people and while his teammates made some mistakes he doesn't know their side of the story. While attempting to justify their actions, Naruto was eventually pulled into his mindscape.
"On top of everything else, I really don't need this. Oi, fox, why am I here?"
"Why, to meet me of course."
Naruto turns toward the voice to see a clone of himself, with red eyes.
"Who…. who are you?"
"I am you. Well, I am all that you repress, like what you were doing with those traitors you call teammates."
"Yes, they are. They were willing to betray the village and they actively betrayed you. Look, Naruto, our first meeting isn't going to be dominated by discussing them. Or anyone else. You have managed to find yourself in the thick of it and frankly you aren't equipped to deal with it."
"What do you mean?"
"Naruto, you are light personified. You suppress anything that doesn't allow you to meet each day with a smile. I used to hate you for that, for ignoring me but as you also started to suppress your rational thinking it came to me."
"Are you calling me stupid?"
"I'm calling you scared. When you used to think about those glares and how angry it made you it scared you. You stopped being as observant as you naturally are, you retarded yourself to the actions and outlook of an idiot. The sad thing is, you're so terrified that they are right that it further hampers you."
"So, what, you want me to let you out? To act like Sasuke-teme or seek revenge on the village?"
"No. It's an oversimplification to say I am just your darkside and therefore all of your negatives. I am what you refuse to show and deal with but I am also what you need for our current situation."
"You think I should accept his offer?"
"For the sake of the village, yes, but as you are you wouldn't make it. You need to guile and the ability to be deceitful. That's why you should let me take over."
"Stop just reacting, Naruto. Stop it. You're more than this. Danzo is a threat, if he really has his own army inside the village he's a threat to the village. We can start removing that threat but not as you are. However, you also aren't ready to accept me just yet. Ceding control to me will allow me to handle the dark aspects you aren't comfortable with. It'll also give you a chance to think about some things and get to know the kyuubi."
"Why would I want that?"
"I've spent time with him, Naruto. He isn't just a mindless beast. He has thoughts and emotions just like you. You don't even know why the attack happened or how a giant fox just ended up in the village. Take this time, Naruto for self reflection and really try to talk to the fox. If we're ever going to be able to really use his chakra we'll have to eventually be partners."
"So, how does this work?"
"Like, I said, you'll cede control to me. There will be a change in personality but I won't be some brooding prick like your teammate nor some grimdark schemer bent on total destruction. I am still you. What you value, I also value. Except team 7. We're done with them."
"But nothing. Forgiveness is great and all but when you grant it without people having to do any work they don't appreciate it. Naruto, team 7 was a poison that you convinced was something more. It wasn't. You can't just tune out reality anymore. No one will follow an oblivious Hokage that refuses to see anything but the best in people."
"Fine but how do I know you won't just lock me down here?"
"Firstly, because I didn't have to fight you for control, since you're giving it to me you can actually yank me back here. Also, when Jiraiya gets here I'll tell him. He could slap a seal on me before I could really do anything. Besides, we're highly untrained and pretty weak for a shinobi without the rasengan and the fox's chakra we ain't got much but stamina and determination. Which is great and all but I want skills. Actual skills."
"Ok but if you hurt my friends I'll not only pull you back, I'll never accept you."
"Awesome, well, let's get to it then."
Jiraiya had arrived at Naruto's apartment about an hour after the switch between his two sides had been made. In that time, Naruto had noticed he seemed slight aware of chakra signatures and could only shake his head. This village was truly a poison, being surrounded by so much hate and intolerance forced his other half to even ignore very useful talents just to stay sane. He actually managed to surprise Jiraiya by calling him out before the man made his presence known.
It was clear the two had a lot to talk about as Jiraiya seemed nervous and angry. Naruto's suggestion that they have their talk in the summon realm shocked Jiraiya but he agreed it was a good idea for absolute privacy. Once there the two started to divulge what they wanted to say.
It was hard to gauge who was more shocked, Jiraiya when he learned Yami Naruto was currently piloting the ship and planned on infiltrating root or Yami Naruto learning his hero was his dad and his mom was the previous jinchuuriki of the fox and a great ninja in her own right.
"I still think this is a mistake." said Jiraiya.
"And I've heard you but Root is a threat and I'm in a position to deal with it. Besides, I get some much needed training."
"It won't be that easy, Danzo will try to slap all manner of seals on you."
"Well, it's a good thing my godfather is a seal master then, isn't it. Look, Danzo won't get to treat me like he does his meat puppets. My value is different. Besides, I think I have a way to deal with him that doesn't involve direct combat."
"Oh and what way is that?"
"So, you're going to pray for him to just die in the middle of the night?"
"No, pervy sage, I am not. He's old. If his mental acuity starts to slip no one would be surprised. If he started showing signs of dementia it would be sad but not unexpected. I just need a slow acting compound that can't be detected."
"I'll ask Tsu"
"No, it can't be baachan. She'd never go along with it, for one and Danzo would suspect I'd tell her if I was aiming for a double cross. You should ask Shizune, no one would suspect her to keep something like this from baachan."
"Hmm, wasn't lying about your more rational thought processes coming back, I see."
"Oi! It was an adaptive strategy, ero-teme! But yes, yes they are. Do you have a solution to our other dilemma."
"Yes, an overloaded blood clone would work. All of the benefits of a shadow clone, none of the durability drawbacks."
"And the toads will allow my clone to stay here to train?"
"Yea, I'll talk to Ma and Pa but as a summoner you should be welcomed. This way I can also train you in secret when I'm not collecting information on Akatsuki so it works out."
"Yatta! Now, can you remove that seal from me?"
Seeing Jiraiya startled he continues, "I remember, he doesn't."
"So, why not just have me remove it from your original body?"
"I'd rather not give into temptation so it's best if I don't even have the option. Besides, I doubt Danzo knows and that is truly for the best."
"Yea, fine. I helped Minato with his so this will be fine."
"Oh, and please teach the clone how to create a mind palace, it'll make the memory transfer a little easier on me. So, how do we start?"
"Oh, that's simple, I bleed you." Jiraiya said with a sinister grin.
Kakashi had been drinking since he left the meeting with the Hokage. He hadn't been this disgusted with himself since Rin died. Drink after drink went down his throat until he didn't even notice the burn of the alcohol. He sat in silence until his fellow jounin sensei arrived, initially planning on not telling them about the dissolution of his team and his failure as a sensei but copious amounts of alcohol and suffocating guilt made for loose lips. He preceded to tell them everything his genin had gotten up to.
"It makes sense, Naruto has been relentless in his pursuits of Sakura. The little chauvinist should have learned that no means no." said Kurenai. And on a meta level Kakashi agrees but on a, 'I know the facts and you should shut up before I back hand you' level he became incensed.
"Naruto has been alone his entire life, no one to truly teach him about proper behavior so he did what a lot of kids do in that situation, he modeled his behavior on those around him. He was no more diligent in his pursuit of Sakura as she was of Sasuke. So, if he should have learned to take no for an answer, she should have as well you fucking hypocrite."
"Whoa, Kakashi, calm down." said Asuma.
"I will not calm down. No one who knows Naruto would think he'd attack Sasuke out of jealousy. The same kid that's never lifted a hand to this pissant villagers that's mistreated him his entire life. No, Naruto told the truth but somehow Sakura managed a way to make him look like the guilty party. Hey, Asuma, who would she have gone to to be able to fool a mind walker?"
"You don't mean…"
"Yes, my bitchy little fangirl ran to your bitchy little fangirl and they did something. What I don't know but Tsunade-sama knows Sasuke and Sakura are lying she just can't prove it, not that it matters."
"Why not?" asked Kurenai.
"Well, Tsunade-sama had to suspend Naruto even though she believes him because the weight of the evidence was against him. Sasuke and Sakura were both promoted to chunin."
"Why would they be promoted?" asked Asuma.
"You must see underneath the underneath. Chunins are able to be sent into different departments. Sakura was sent to the infiltration and espionage unit." replied Kakashi, causing Kurenai and Asuma to gasp.
"No, Kakashi. You have to change her mind, you can't allow this to happen to Sakura, regardless of the mistakes she's made."
"Don't you think I want to? I tried to argue and Tsunade-sama but she wouldn't hear of it. And I can't blame her. Naruto convinced her to comeback, saving her life nearly at the cost of his own. She believes in him and yet she had to punish him for stopping a traitor. She's beyond pissed and my students are going to pay the price."
"But she'll make Sakura little more than a whore." replied Kurenai.
"I'm aware. What would you have me do? She initiated a conspiracy, Kurenai. She subverted the law and is somehow getting away with it. Tsunade-sama told her that if she confessed that it would cost Sakura her new position but she'd eventually be assigned a new genin team. Sakura refused. She made the same offer to Sasuke, confess or suffer the consequences."
"And what is she doing to him?"
"Since he wants to get stronger to kill Itachi he will be ordered to stay in the village and had a seal placed on him. If he leaves the village walls without permission it'll stop his heart and seal his chakra and his eyes. Also, he will be required to do a workout routine devised by Gai here, the intensity of which most jounin couldn't handle."
"So, that's why Hokage-sama asked me for a workout plan. Kakashi, that will ruin his body."
"I'm aware and that's the point. Since he wanted to leave to get power she's going to give it to him. He'll either confess or he'll handicap himself for the rest of his life."
"That is beyond cruel." said Kurenai.
"Only because most of your dealings with an Hokage was my dad during his second term. This is what you do to people who think they can pull one over on you." replied Asuma as he knew how much of a bastard his father could be when he wanted to.
"But Sakura has so much potential and it'll be wasted. She'll never be the same and kunoichi assigned to that never become prominent ninja. They never become jounin." insisted Kurenai.
"Once again, what do you want me to do? A lot of this is my fault, one of the reasons Tsunade-sama can justify this is that Sakura is just potential. She hasn't demonstrated much in the way of shinobi skills and if I had trained her harder that wouldn't be the case. But if she won't save herself I can't help her."
"Fine, Kakashi, if you won't help your student, I will. I'm sure I can make Tsunade-sama see reason." Kurenai said as she headed for the door.
It had already been a long day, Tsunade was not pleased that one of her jounin was making it longer by questioning her decision. If Sarutobi-sensei allowed this then Tsunade would be putting her ninja in their place very soon.
"I've heard your arguments. I've heard Kakashi's, my decision is final."
"But Tsunade-sama, this will ruin her."
"So can being abducted on a mission, being mutilated or any other awful thing. Sakura has had a year to grow, she has not. This is a safer alternative for her and will be a cautionary tale for other kunoichi that don't take their responsibilities seriously."
"But I can help her, allow her on my team and I will help."
"Had you ever offered to help her before?"
"No but I assumed she had Kakashi. None of us knew he essentially didn't train his team. Whatever she did was a mistake, she deserves to be punished but not at the cost of her career and her potential."
"Why not? She had no issue risking Naruto's career and his potential. Amazing you aren't arguing that he shouldn't be suspended. Kakashi didn't either. Funny how ok you both are with him getting screwed. Kakashi was quite adamant in his defense of his other two charges but couldn't spare a single word for Naruto. And now you come to me, filled with righteous indignation and arrogance.
Who told you you could question me? Who told you you could challenge me? Would you have ever openly second guessed the Sandaime or the Yondaime?"
"But you feel comfortable doing it to me? Get out, Yuhi. Sakura can save herself and if she chooses to remain silent then she'll be whatever the village needs her to be and if it isn't all she could have been then that's her own fault for putting everything on the line for a traitorous little bastard and if you ever question me again I'll strip you of your rank and your team. I've read your team's progress reports and your attempts at fixing Hinata's confidence issues have been less than stellar. You've yet to manage to curb Kiba's brashness as well. Be a better sensei for the genin assigned to you instead of worrying about one who isn't."
Trying to recovery an ounce of self-respect from Tsunade's words Kurenai continues, "Tsunade-sama, the fact that we even still have that program is wrong and sexist. Those girls could be put to use elsewhere and the idea that someone who graduated at the top of her class will be subjected to it is disgraceful. Whatever she did I'm sure it wasn't malicious and even if she's legally an adult she's still a kid that made a mistake. Should she have to pay for it for the rest of her professional life? Should have to come back a broken, empty shell, likely addicted to drugs for one indiscretion?"
"She was given a chance to confess, she chose not to. However she suffers and for however long is entirely up to her. If she won't admit to what she did then she isn't the kind of kunoichi I have any use for. Now, I won't ask you to leave again, Yuhi and accept your missions from the mission office until instructed otherwise."
Sakura was awoken by a tapping on her window. Approaching it, she saw it was a teary eyed and bruised Ino. Allowing the girl to come in immediately, Ino broke down in her arms. Informing Sakura that her father, Inoichi, knew she supplied false memories but was forced to lie to the Hokage lest he put the clan in danger. He even stripped Ino of being his heiress and forbade any member of further training her in their jutsu. The bruise on her cheek had come from him as he verbally laid into her, wondering where he went so wrong that she'd willing help a traitor to frame an innocent comrade and put jeopardize her clan to do so. As Sakura held the girl it took her several minutes to compose herself.
"I'm so sorry Ino, I'm sorry I dragged you into this."
"I should have said no. I can't blame you since you didn't make me do it."
"But you should. I asked you to help me protect Sasuke and he didn't even appreciate it. I was in his hospital room this morning and he just tore into me, relentlessly. Tsunade-sama knows we're lying but she had to suspend Naruto because she can't prove it."
"My dad told me it was likely Naruto would be sanctioned but suspension?"
"Yes and Tsunade-sama is livid. I want to apologize to Naruto but she ordered that Sasuke and I have zero contact with him and each other. Not that I'd want to see the arrogant prick.
Sasuke had returned to his hospital room after the meeting with the Hokage, a very unhappy Hokage at that. A part of him wanted to just come clean and deal with the consequences but his anger at Naruto wouldn't allow it. He was even more responsible for delaying Sasuke's revenge on Itachi as such he should suffer for that, he needs to be punished. It angers Sasuke how people don't understand that Itachi is not just another missing nin, he is the embodiment of evil and must be killed. How can Sasuke ever hope to move on if his brother is allowed to roam the world freely? How can his world ever make sense again? Yet time after time people delay and deny him. He wasn't growing fast enough here and if he had to sell his soul to Orochimaru then that price was well worth it. No one understands, none of them knows how it feels to have the weight of an entire clan on your shoulders, desperately calling out to be avenged.
Every pain felt from the injuries inflicted by Naruto reassures Sasuke that he was right to do what he did, Naruto deserves it and so does Sakura. Her thinking that caring about him, which he never asked for, entitles her to interfere in his life is absurd. The whole situation is. This village has nothing for him anymore, it's clear everyone supports Naruto now. How else could anyone explain Naruto manage to nearly become his equal? Defeat opponents Sasuke couldn't? They'd rather see the dobe advance and grow stronger while intentionally holding Sasuke back. It doesn't matter that Kakashi focused on him during the chunin finals, the dobe got a Sannin. And then earned the favor of another Sanin. It's not fair. Why can't he get this kind of support to kill Itachi. Nothing else is as important as that, no one is safe as long as Itachi is alive and the person with the greatest potential to kill him is stuck in this hospital for another week. Why don't they understand? Why can't they understand? Sasuke wonders as his frustration starts to boil over and tears come to his eyes.
'Why didn't he just kill me, too?'
He arrived early at the predetermined destination but better to arrive early than late, he assumed. He wondered why he wasn't more nervous and was concerned he was being overly cocky about his undertaking. It wouldn't do any good to be humbled because that'll likely meant a nasty seal or execution. Staying smart, focus and controlled is the only way this has the remote possibility to work and that is what he plans to do. Tsunade-sama believed him, when so much was against him she believed him and he's going to make that count. Suspended or not, he'd show that her faith wasn't misplaced and his desire to be Hokage is more than bluster.
"You've arrived early Uzumaki."
"Hai. Before I agree to join you, I'd like to discuss a few stipulations." Seeing a quick quirk of the eyebrow was the only indication the man had any reaction to his words.
"Stipulations? I don't know if you're bold or just foolish but you aren't boring. Please, share, Uzumaki."
She had never been to this side of town but she had heard about it. Mostly from her parents tell her to never come to this side of town. Seedy doesn't begin to describe the buildings. She almost thought, hoped more like it, that she was reading the address wrong but it was not to be as she arrived to her destination. A building in slightly better condition with an ostentatious red door. Taking several deep breaths she enters to be greeted by several women in various states of dress. Some of these girls she remembers as being in her class or a year or so ahead. Soon enough her thoughts were interrupted when she was greeted by an older woman, long black hair, hazel eyes and a figure similar to Kurenai sensei's. She practically glided across the red lit room before she spoke.
"You must be Sakura." seeing the pinkette nod, she continues, "I'm Kiara and Hokage-sama says you're going to be training with me for awhile. Your room will be on the secon…"
"Room? I'm living here?"
"Yes, this is a fully immersive training. You don't leave until you are sent on assignment or have downtime but you always return here. Now, as I was saying your room will be on the second floor so please go find it and then come back down. We have a lot to cover before we open tonight."
"Open? What is it you do here?"
"Whatever the client is willing to pay for, within reason. You'll learn. There is more than one way to turn your body into a weapon and you'll be learning the alternative path." Kirara said with a predatory grin. Taking a look around again and considering Kiara's words it finally dawns on Sakura where Tsunade has assigned her. This place is often rumored about, the fate of kunoichi that wash out. Shinobi that wash out end up being sent on suicide missions while kunoichi are trained in seduction. Sakura fights back the tears forming in her eyes and she realizes the damage she's done to her career and as much as she'd love to confess she can't do that to Ino. It never occurs to her what she's doing to Naruto by protecting everyone but him but why should it? Team 7 was the team that never should have existed.
Any other combination of team members and team leader from the rookie 9 would have functioned better. Even the method of break up could have potentially made the team salvageable. A Naruto so desperate to maintain his bonds he held little regard for his own welfare, a Sakura given a chance to mature under a proper master, and a Sasuke who could take his pound of flesh from the world that had a best friend willing to suffer to bring Sasuke back from the darkness. These three will not be those. Naruto will see the difference between health and unhealthy bonds. Sakura will have to mature in a different way. And Sasuke will be denied his revenge and only have the ghosts of his past to deal with. What effect will this have on the shinobi world?