Honokuni Monogatari - "Fire Country Stories"
Uchinaru - "On The Inside"
By Aoi Kami Sarah
This fic was written before chapter 235's Sasuke vs. Naruto fight. Please assume that the events of this fic diverge from what will happen in Kishimoto's Naruto from there on.
"Five AM," she muttered, clutching the clock. 'Why is it always five AM?'
'Sakura! Time to get up!'
'If we're so close, couldn't you wake me up at nine? Or eight even?'
'Sakura, you lazy sack of shit get up right now!!!'
"I'M UP!" Sakura shouted. Her voice echoed off the paper-thin walls of her apartment. "Shit. Neighbors won't like that too much." She slid out of bed and stretched. This week the 16 year old was on guard duty, something all Chuunin had to do at one point or another. She couldn't help but think that her supposed mentor, Tsunade had assigned her to such a menial task to get her out of the way for a while. Sakura flicked on the greenish fluorescent light in the bathroom and pouted into the mirror. "Maybe I should grow my hair out again. Short hair makes me look way too old." Sakura made a seal with her hands and her hair appeared longer. Playing idly with it for a moment, she studied her falsified appearance before sighing, dispelling the vanity jutsu, and getting dressed.
Just after Sakura arrived at the sentry post, Ibiki gave them their orders. A set of guards at the east gate had fallen before a set of intruders. Not knowing their ages, rank or even village affiliation, her Leaf Nin team gave chase hoping to capture and question the enemy. They bounded through the canopy. Branch to branch they leapt hardly making a sound.
"Three of them." The team leader sniffed the air and nodded. "Like us, two men, one woman. No injuries." His comrades followed at a short distance so as not to disrupt his smell-perception. "Akamaru should catch up to them in a minute."
"Who do you think they are, Kiba?" the other man asked. "The Inuzuka family's abilities are so finely attuned that you probably have a sense of where they originated from."
Kiba frowned. "Thanks for the ego-boost, Lee, but all I smell is swamp, probably on their shoes or pants. They might be from the northeast."
"Northeast…" the woman repeated. "You don't think…?"
"Sakura-san…" Lee whispered.
"Yeah," Kiba agreed. "They're our only enemies from that area right now unless someone's going to great lengths to seem like they're from the Hidden Sound."
"If they were trying to pretend," Lee added, "they'd have been more obvious, wouldn't they?"
Kiba fell silent and debated sending one of his party back for reinforcements. They didn't know what they were up against yet. He pushed on and grinned. "It's ok," he said out loud. "We've got four nin to their three, right?"
At last they came to a small stream and met up with the medium sized white dog. His hackles were raised and he growled at the water. "A trap, eh Akamaru?" Kiba asked his faithful friend. A lilting sound floated on the breeze, almost as if the reeds in the water were playing a tune. Lee and Kiba relaxed. Akamaru looked to his master with a soft whimper and Sakura gasped. She made three seals with her hands and closed her eyes. A shimmering bubble of protection sprang up around them allowing Kiba and Lee to snap out of it.
"Genjutsu?" Lee asked. Sakura nodded and the enemy attacked.
A woman with flowing wrappings like a mummy leapt out of the trees behind them, but neglected to see that the dog had not been delayed by the musical Genjutsu attack. Akamaru lunged at her and bit deep into her shoulder. Sakura noticed the music stopped and released the counter-jutsu. Lee disappeared from her side. He re-appeared next to a redheaded flute player hidden in the nearby shrubs. Before he could cry out, Lee had snapped the flute in two and punched him in the face. Red reeled back and produced an ocarina. Lee gave chase, but the notes emanating from the instrument stopped him dead in his tracks.
"Lee-san!" Sakura called out. "Plug your ears!" It was too late, however. He turned and headed back to her, his eyes half-lidded. Kiba tried to intercept him, but the third Sound nin swooped down from the trees like a crow and took him on. Lee reached Sakura; his vacant stare alerted her to his condition. 'Oh no. Lee can't snap out of it himself!' she thought. She pulled a kunai and a blowgun out of her pack and tried her best to fight her friend and teammate without taking too much damage.
He spun and kicked her hard across the face, cutting her cheek. Sakura tumbled away from him and leapt up. 'Now's my chance! Sorry, Lee-san!' she thought and blew a tiny, almost invisible dart at him. It hit his shin and before he could take three steps Lee fell face first into the grass, dead asleep.
Relieved, Sakura breathed a sigh, but noticed quickly that it was very quiet. She stood and looked around, trying to locate any foreign sounds. The Sound-nin Akamaru had attacked lay on the ground about 50 feet away looking very dead, but neither the dog nor his master were anywhere to be seen. She leapt up into the trees and hid herself. She knew the flutist was still around somewhere. As long as he was a Genjutsu user, she knew his attacks would have less effect on her. With Tsunade's training, she could defeat him.
A rustling to her left put Sakura on guard. She formed a half-dozen seals and closed her eyes. A single note from the ocarina escaped, but a loud rustle and accompanying thud told her she got him with the Feathery Sleep technique. She let out a quiet sigh and scanned the area again. 'Come on Kiba. I don't have Lee to help right now…' As if in answer, Kiba staggered out of the woods toward the riverbank.
"Run… Sakura. Back to the Leaf…" he choked out before falling down hard on the gravel. A dark figure emerged from the woods, Akamaru stuffed under his arm. The Sound nin dropped him on top of his master and stood his ground.
'No…' Sakura started to shake. 'Not now, not him!'
'I CAN'T!' she argued back.
'You must. He can't get away again, Sakura!'
"Sakura," he called without looking up. His hair was long and in his face. His clothes were all black and no trace of his family crest could be seen. The afternoon light glinted off his Sound Village forehead protector. "I can't let you live."
Her inner-self didn't have to push. He knew she was there. There was no choice. If she didn't fight it would be like letting him kill her. She dropped down to the ground and walked to the other side of the stream. "It's been a long time, Saskue-kun.
When she came to, Sakura was fairly surprised to find that she was alive. Lee's worried face was just out of focus but she identified him, even with only one eye functioning properly. She wanted to scream, or cry or cling to him but her body refused. She closed her eyes.
Sasuke stood over her, his hand raised, ready for her to attack again. Sakura scuttled back a few feet, her head swam from his last punch. "Sasuke…" she sobbed. "Come home."
"And if I refuse, what will you do then?" he asked and kicked her hard in the ribs. Sakura coughed up blood and curled into a ball.
'Yes, what will you do, Sakura?'
'Go away. I don't need you…'
'You're pathetic. Let me take over.'
'He's going to get away, and you are going to die. Let me in the driver's seat, damn it!'
"Fine…" She went still. As Sasuke reeled back to kick her again, she reached out quickly, grasped his other ankle and pulled. He went down and she came up, hurled a handful of shuriken at him and leapt back ten feet. Sasuke put his hands out and did a back flip as he fell easily avoiding the projectiles. His brow rose as she pulled out a concealed weapon. The sickle and chain whirred in the air as she spun the weighted end around. A sickening grin formed on her lips. "Bring it on, Sasuke-kun. I'll drag you back to the Leaf kicking and screaming."
Lee unwrapped the chain from her chest, wincing at the deep cuts it had left in her arms. "He hung her up in a tree?!" Kiba's angry voice bellowed from nearby. He coughed with the effort.
"Shhh," Lee insisted. "Sakura-san, can you hear me?" She nodded slightly. "Akamaru went to get help. They'll be here soon. Hang in there!" She nodded again and passed out.
The lights were blinding. She struggled to see, but it seemed almost too much of an effort just to breathe. Her body felt like lead. Familiar voices chirped like birds around her.
"…If she did indeed contact him…"
"…Remains to be seen. Two bodies were found at the scene…"
"…Become a serious security issue. Ibiki-san has reported that the enemy…"
She closed her eyes tightly.
'There's nowhere to hide, Sakura.'
'Ooh, he really let you have it, you weakling. You're so wounded you're almost immobile. How does that feel, eh? Why do you still insist on pushing me down?'
'Because you're not me.'
'Wrong, girly. You are not ME. You are the soft exterior. You're supposed to be a ninja. You cannot be soft. How many times do I have to tell you this?'
'You're the one who got me trashed out there…'
'If I had been in charge from the get-go you wouldn't have lost! You're the one who let him get away again, Sakura!'
She had no comeback for this one. Sakura tried to move even a finger and still her body was unresponsive and heavy.
'If you ever want to get out of this bed again, let me in front.'
'You're doing this…?' she asked, alarmed that she had no control over her physical action.
'Sakura, you useless piece of shit, let me out!'
'You are incapable and pathetic. I am strong. I will get him back.'
Shizune finally managed to get everyone out of the room and concentrate on healing her patient. She thanked the gods that Naruto had been busy on an important mission, because even dealing with a hysterical Ino had been hard enough. Where Ino had not been told that Uchiha Sasuke delivered the beating, Naruto would have gotten it out of someone and been furious. Picking up the chart, Shizune sighed and looked over Sakura's wounds.
"Concussion, broken ribs, lacerations on the biceps, other minor contusions… Nothing so serious…" she muttered to herself. The mission report was under the medical chart. Shizune reread this and stared out the window. "Hmmm could be because of the particular opponent…" she mused, but was distracted by the patient's movement. Not only was Sakura stirring, she was trying to get out of bed.
"Whoa! Wait a second, you shouldn't be moving around like that with those ribs," Shizune advised in a friendly, polite tone.
"Fuck off," Sakura spat back and pushed her aside as she threw her legs over the side of the bed and held her side in pain.
"Uh… Sakura-kun, are you feeling alright?" Shizune asked, putting her left hand on her shoulder.
Sakura threw it off and scowled at her. "What do you think, moron?"
Shizune narrowed her eyes and jammed her right index and middle fingers into a pressure point by Sakura's knees. As she fell, Shizune caught her and pushed her gently back onto the bed. "I think you need to rest some more and since I am your acting physician, you will do as I say."
Sakura growled at her, but made no further attempt to leave. She turned her head and looked out the window. Shizune opened her mouth to say something but decided against it. She left the room, stationing two white-garbed medic-nin as guards at the door on the way out. When she returned a few moments later Shizune had two cups of tea, a notebook and a pen. She wore a stethoscope around her neck.
"Sakura-kun. I'd like to ask you a few questions about your mission."
"Whatever," she grumbled.
"Can you look at me?"
Indignantly, Sakura turned her head and huffed. She stared at Shizune as if her head was on fire. "Happy?"
"Overjoyed," she said flatly and leaned in to take a sip of tea. When she leaned back the stethoscope swung back and forth over her chest. She proceeded to ask routine who-what-when-where questions about the spur-of-the-moment mission Sakura, Lee and Kiba had been sent on. "And when you hit Lee with the dart…?"
"He…" Sakura said, sleepily.
"Fell asleep?" Shizune asked. "Sakura when I count to three, you will fall asleep. Understood?"
"One, Two…" she leaned in again, sipped her tea and let the stethoscope do its job. With the power of advanced medic-nin techniques, it mesmerized the unsuspecting Kunoichi. "Three. Sakura, can you hear me?"
Her eyelids were closed. "Yeah…"
"You've been acting sort of strangely since you came to. What's wrong?"
"Nothing," she spat.
"Now, now. I know that's not true. You're not that rude. Something happened out there that made you upset. What was it?"
"It wasn't me," she growled.
"It was her."
"Who's that, Sakura?"
"The one who's usually on the outside."
"And you are…?"
Shizune finished off her tea and started on the cup she had brought for Sakura. "Interesting…"
To be continued...