A/N: Here begins my 60-some-odd chapter, slow burn, MadaSaku epic.
This story is very meaningful to me personally in more ways than one. It's my attempt to express what I think true love – healthy love – looks like. More than anything though, this is my attempt to give Sakura everything she was denied in canon. All of the respect, the admiration, the love, the devotion, the confidence, and the strength she deserves.
Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive of me and my writing. Your encouragement and your love mean the world to me as I open up my heart to you.
Despite Sakura's determination to kill Sasuke by herself, she still felt guilty for using the sleeping gas bomb on her companions. She felt conflicted by the fact that she had just left Sai, Lee, Kiba, and Akamaru unconscious and defenseless in the woods but she knew it would be much safer there than caught up in the fight that was about to break out.
She comforted herself with the fact that knocking her friend's unconscious had been a necessity. Killing Sasuke was a task that was for her and her alone. He was her old teammate and the man that she had once loved. She had selfishly tasked Naruto with the impossible mission of returning Sasuke home all those years ago, overcome by his bitter rejection of her and her own heartbreak. It was her duty to relieve that mission from her best friend's shoulders by bringing Sasuke's corpse home herself.
When her and her small team had headed towards the Land of Iron, intent on trying to convince Naruto to finally let Sasuke go, she had already formed a basic plan. She had thought of deceiving Naruto by telling him that she loved him and that his promise to bring Sasuke home was forfeit.
The closer and closer they got to the inn where they knew Naruto was staying, however, the more and more she felt sickened by her own plan. Lying to her best friend, a man who had known nothing but lies for his entire childhood and who trusted her implicitly, did not sit well with her.
At the last minute, Sakura found that she couldn't go through with it.
Naruto would hate her enough after she killed Sasuke. She didn't want his final memory of her as his friend to be tainted by a lie as bold as the one she had planned.
Right outside of the village in the Land of Iron where Naruto, Kakashi, and Yamato were staying, Sakura had ordered her group to stop. She told them to forget about seeing Naruto and to instead seek out Sasuke immediately. When they had asked her why, she told them the truth: No matter what they said or did, Naruto would vehemently oppose their plan. He would protect Sasuke with his life, even if Sasuke would happily take Naruto's. It would be best if they simply went after Sasuke without telling him.
Despite a few token resistances from a couple of her companions, they knew she was right. They immediately retreated from the small village and it took little time for the snowy terrain to turn back to the thick forests they were used to.
It hadn't taken them long to locate Sasuke after that. Kiba and Akamaru were both adept trackers and already had Sasuke's scent memorized. She was thankful for their help coming this far, but had already decided that she would incapacitate them in order to face her challenge by herself. She couldn't bring herself to put more of the people she loved in danger. She had already lost Sasuke to his madness, she couldn't bear to lose her friends to death.
As Sakura flew through the trees, heading in the direction Kiba had stated before she had used the sleeping gas bomb to knock them all unconscious, she hardened her resolve. She would kill Sasuke. She would bring his corpse home to Naruto. She would accept Naruto's hatred of her. It was her duty, as a member of team seven and as a kunoichi of Konoha, to do this.
When she emerged from the forest and came upon the bridge where she knew she would find Sasuke, she was shocked to find him fighting the recently appointed Sixth Hokage, Danzo. She held no love for the ancient man but knew that she certainly couldn't stand by and let him die at the hands of her old teammate.
The kunoichi took a moment to rapidly scan the battlefield, first taking note of the Akatsuki member with the orange mask that she had faced once before sitting atop an overhang on the opposite side of the bridge. She spotted an unknown woman with red hair hiding behind a pillar before her attention focused on Sasuke preparing to run Danzo through with his katana. With a half second to make a decision, she slammed her fist into the bridge, sending a shockwave through the entire structure. It rocked unsteadily, her half of the bridge immediately collapsing into the river below under the strain.
Sasuke was thrown off balance just enough for the Hokage to evade his attack, leaping a safe distance away. She used the opportunity to bound over the decimated half of the bridge to stand at Danzo's side.
Sakura noticed that Sasuke appeared to be injured. Blood stained his cheek, mouth, and chin and his breathing was severely labored. Even hurt and at a distance, his mere presence was suffocating. His chakra was dark, sickening, and venomous and his killing intent was palpable enough to make her stomach clench.
Looking at him now, she recognized nothing about him. This wasn't the Sasuke she had once known. This wasn't the boy who had been her and Naruto's friend and teammate. This wasn't the boy she had fallen in love with, who had abandoned her and broken her heart. This was a man who had betrayed them all, who had joined the depraved organization the Akatsuki, and who now wanted to kill Naruto for the tailed beast inside of him.
No, this was no longer Sasuke… This was a monster.
Steeling her resolve, she turned to face Danzo. Her gaze flicked down to the man's bizarrely mutated arm, implanted with a dozen sharingan eyes, in muted horror. Most of the eyes were closed, only a handful on his forearm open. She was immediately revolted by the grotesque sight and wanted to demand how and why he had harvested so many sharingan. She held her tongue for now, knowing that that was a demand for another time.
There were far more pressing matters at hand.
"Are you injured?" the medical ninja asked briskly and with no warmth, her fists raised defensively as she stared at Sasuke's chest, avoiding his sharingan. The glare Sasuke shot at her and the absolute blood thirst behind it startled her for a moment.
Sasuke was dead. This was a monster in front of her now.
"It's nothing. What are you doing here?" Danzo demanded gruffly, his eyes also remaining on the Uchiha across the field.
"Sakura! Stay out of this if you value your life!" Sasuke roared from the opposite end of the bridge, his dark chakra rolling off of him in jagged, menacing waves.
Sakura's eyes narrowed, her gaze trained on her ex-teammates chest. He was a sharingan user, after all, and Kakashi's lessons from when they faced Itachi remained with her. She knew that Sasuke would kill her on sight even if she wasn't involving herself in his fight. She used that definite knowledge to harden her resolve even further, determined to not hold back.
She would go through with what she came here to do.
"I've come to bring Sasuke home," she explained simply, drawing an unimpressed glance from Danzo.
"You would bring home a traitor? A man who abducted the eight tailed jinchuuriki for the Akatsuki, who attacked the Five Kage Summit? A missing nin who is making an attempt on my, your Hokage's, life?" the elder man growled in response, his eyes narrowed in disgust.
"I never said that he would be breathing," she muttered darkly, not noticing the surprised look the Sixth Hokage gave her. His face turned pensive for a moment before he nodded once.
Even though she had spoken in hushed tones, Sasuke's eyes narrowed as well. He had heard her. He charged forward without another word, his dramatically increased speed surprising Sakura.
Danzo immediately leapt to the side, abandoning Sakura to expertly dodge Sasuke's strikes. Her old teammate appeared to be trying to dispose of her immediately in order to return to his battle with Danzo, but hadn't accounted for Sakura's increase in skill as well.
While his strikes with his katana were lightning fast, Sakura had spent years learning the most crucial skill for a medical ninja: evasion. She noticed he appeared to grow even more frustrated with his lack of connection, his movements becoming more unpredictable and violent as he continued.
As the Uchiha tried to use a forward thrust to skewer her, she dropped down and struck out at his exposed middle. He didn't try to dodge, probably assuming that her taijutsu was just as weak as it had been when he abandoned the village. When her fist connected, his face morphed into one of shock for a brief moment before the force of her chakra enhanced punch rocketed him across the bridge and into the pillar the red haired woman was hiding behind. With an explosion of debris, he slid to the ground, coughing up a mouthful of blood as he roughly hit the stone floor of the bridge.
Sakura was already shooting forward, her steps enhanced with chakra, intent on using his stunned state to crush him into the pillar. He had underestimated her and his moment of ignorance was all she needed to take him down once and for all. Even if he may be more powerful than her, he had made the mistake of thinking she was the same weak genin she had once been.
She had to do this, she had to. This wasn't Sasuke, this was a monster. He wanted to kill Naruto. He wanted to kill everyone. There was no other choice, don't back down now. You need to do this!
Do it now, don't hold back!
She was so caught up in the fight, in the thoughts screaming in her mind, that she didn't notice Danzo also closing in behind her.
Sasuke's eyes snapped open at their approach, his gaze shooting from Sakura to some space behind her. He hissed something she couldn't make out and Sakura immediately felt a blistering heat at her back.
Then everything was dark.
Sakura felt like she was floating, suspended in the senseless abyss. The sudden lack of sensation was so startling that it stole the breath from her lungs. She tried to regain it, but the muscles in her chest refused to obey her. She couldn't feel the sudden heat behind her, the ground beneath her feet, or the crisp mountain air whipping against her skin. All she could feel was a sudden screaming agony in her skull which brought her hands to her head as she gritted her teeth against it. She couldn't hear anything but her own racing heart beat pounding in her ears, her own cry of pain not even reaching her. She couldn't see anything, an oppressive, all encompacing darkness surrounding her.
There was nothing...
Then, with no warning at all, the world returned to her. Ground appeared beneath her feet, air returned to her lungs, and the sounds of battle greeted her ears in a burst so fast it felt like she had hit the water after falling a great distance.
As the world reappeared around her in a jarring burst of color and sound, she found herself in the center of a much different battle. Unknown ninja without headbands fought all around her, jutsu flaring up in bursts of chakra and weapons clashing together with the sound of ringing metal.
The agonizing pain in her head stopped like someone had flipped a switch, her hands dropping from the sides of her head as her eyes flicked across her new surroundings in shock. The kunoichi immediately leapt out of the way of two strangely dressed men charging directly at her, jumping up to perch on the top of a noticeably untarnished pillar. She knew that this pillar had just sustained a substantial amount of damage after she had launched Sasuke into it, but now it appeared to be untouched.
She took a rapid glance around the battlefield and absorbed the vast number of ninja fighting below her and the distinctly undamaged bridge she stood upon. The tree she has seen sprouting up from the bricks when she had first arrived was gone. The side of the bridge she had toppled at the beginning of the battle was rebuilt. Even the bricks she stood on appeared to be fresh and not bleached from years of being beaten by the sun.
A genjutsu then.
Sakura rapidly altered the flow of chakra in her body, sending an erratic burst throughout herself in a surefire way to release the jutsu, as she hissed, "Release."
The ninja below her continued to battle and, not just that, but a man dressed in yellow accented armor, not unlike those worn by the samurai of the Land of Iron, was bearing down on her from above, his kama raised high in the air. She reacted immediately, dodging his ameatur strike and planting a foot on his exposed shoulder when he crouched to absorb the force from his landing. Her kick shot him into the crowd below her, knocking several men in different outfits off of their feet.
A dozen men and women surrounding her now crippled assailant, some with the same yellow trimmed armor as her attacker and some with black cloaks decorated with an orange sunburst, turned to face her. Their expressions ranged from fury to shock and it appeared that the group made a singular, unspoken decision to remove the interloper before continuing with their own battle.
During the brief moment before their attack, Sakura's eyes rapidly scanned the battlefield. Who were these people? Where had Sasuke and Danzo gone? What of the Akatsuki member and that red haired woman? What happened to the bridge?
If this wasn't a genjutsu... What was happening?
Four of the shinobi, all in the yellow trimmed armor, leapt up towards her, clearing the still ongoing battle beneath them in a single bound. The shinobi in cloaks remained behind, some weaving hand signs while others ran around the battle to try to flank her.
Sakura's eye narrowed as her attention returned to the battle she had been thrust into.
'Well, if it's a fight they want then it's a fight they'll get!'
When one of her attackers landed, swinging a unwieldy bludgeon at her, she caught the blow. She had a millisecond to absorb his baffled expression before she pivoted her feet, swinging him around her and throwing him into two of the still airborne shinobi. With a crunch of metal and a couple alarmed screams, they all shot off the edge of the bridge and plummeted down into the river below.
The screams drew the attention of the rest of the combatants and their attention was drawn up just in time to witness Sakura leaping off of the pillar to meet her final attacker in the air. She parried a blow from her staff before landing a kick which also rocketed her broken corpse far off the edge of the bridge.
When the kunoichi landed on the pillar opposite the one she had just leapt from, she turned to see a now dramatically increased number of opponents rushing in after her.
The battle she faced from then on was highly reminiscent of the one she had with Sasori's puppets. She weaved between her attackers, all whom were relying on taijutsu as they couldn't risk using jutsu which may harm their companions. She expertly dodged any blow meant for her and filled any remaining space with strikes of her own. The sound of crunching metal and bone and yells of rage and agony filled the air around her as she plowed through the oncoming horde with a grace she distantly believed her mentor would be proud of.
Sakura focused on that thought instead of the sticky sensation of gore coating her hands and the sickening scent of freshly spilled blood and viscera.
Some of the people she struck shot outwards into the pillars lining the bridge, destroying the brick structures and raining debris upon her foes. The strangers tried to dodge the rubble, some getting crushed beneath the heavy stone, and provided Sakura with an opening. She leapt out of the rapidly thinning fray and onto one of the broken pillars, quickly surveying her opponents.
"Leave now if you value your lives!" the kunoichi roared from atop her perch, her calculating eyes wild with the thrill of the fight.
The unknown shinobi were cautious to approach her now, both sides of the conflict she found herself in struggling to find her weakness. She took advantage of their cautiousness to heft a boulder-sized hunk of rubble over her head and pitch it into the heart of the bridge with all her chakra fueled might. The brick walkway immediately collapsed beneath her assault, the center of the bridge falling out and taking with it a number of her foes. Many others leapt away from the carnage, perching on the railing of the bridge on either side of her.
The pillar Sakura stood on, broken as it was, stayed strong beneath her feet. Her remaining attackers, a fraction of what she had first faced, eyed her blood splattered form warily.
One of them, a man in a elaborate set of brightly colored armor who she assumed was the leader of the group of armored shinobi, began to weave hand signs. Sakura kicked one of the jagged shards of stone jutting up from her broken pillar. The stone snapped off without any resistance and rocketed towards her attacker, launching him into the people behind him and tossing them off of the bridge with alarmed screams.
She whipped around, facing the people of the opposite side of the railing, and waited. None tried to approach her, their expressions torn as they observed her. It was when one of them stepped backwards, putting distance between them, that the others readily welcomed the idea and dispersed.
Sakura watched as her remaining foes turned tail and fled, adrenaline and victory coursing through her blood. Her success felt that much more satisfying when she realized she didn't have a scratch on her. It was elation, however,that quickly faded when she surveyed her once again decimated surroundings with compounding confusion.
What was happening?
A/N: A kama is a sickle. It can be used for farming to harvest crops but it is also used as a weapon in martial arts. The weapon attached to Madara's gunbai is a large kama with a notably longer handle.