Disclaimer, dont own dont sue. Been a while, i know. Kinda lost the spark until recentley. Pls note that i started this story much before the Shippuden so some lements would seem odd keeping the new info form shippuden in mind, to the people who think this way ia sk you to consider this a small AU. A 'what if Shipuden was different" sort of.
Read, review and enjoy.
Beta'd by the amazing Hououza
"Five, four, three, two, one, zero", the Lady's fingers counted down and sure enough as the last finger had gone up her door was flung open. With her back towards her guests the lady smiled, she knew who it was and what they wanted, she could sense it from their auras, both of their Chakra flows indicated very high levels of adrenalin. Good, they would need all the energy they could spare. Quashing the smile the lady turned around and took a look at her guests.
"Sensei, Hentai-sama here says there is a way to save Naruto? It's true, isn't it?"
The lady, one Tsunade of the Hidden leaf looked at the speaker, a spry young woman with bright pink hair, with a smile.
"There was no stopping this one, Tsunade, a fine clone you have made", a drawling voice chipped in, male and with some wisdom behind it.
The man in question ruffled his shaggy white hair and adjusted his bone forehead protector, a serious tone glazing his eyes.
"Its true Sakura, but it will be a hard journey, you might not make it back, sure you want to risk all this for that murdering blonde?"
Tsunade knew well the answer but…
"Don't worry, princess, she will have the great Jiraiya-Sama, the maestro of women, conductor of their hearts, as a bodyguard."
Tsunade's relationship with Jiraiya was complicated; sometimes she wanted to kill him painfully…other times she wanted to hug him. He was reliable above and beyond anything and at this point in time, she really needed someone reliable for this mission.
Tsunade once again steeled her eyes and brought them to bear on Sakura, "Ok then, you have till the end of the day to find three more people to complete your five man cell, come back and I'll give you the details."
Both the Jonin and Sanin nodded and left.
Tsunade watched as they both exited the building heavy conversation apparent. Tsunade though, she had something to handle at that point in time.
"You can come out now", The Godaime spoke to no one in particular.
A wry smile formed on her features as a tall man appeared in front of her. White hair, stupidly positioned mask that covered one of his eyes and an aura of power. Yes, all traits that defined the former leader of the infamous team seven, the leader of ANBU: Hatake Kakashi.
"You are still a hundred years too young to be able to sneak up on me like that Kakashi."
With a sigh the man gave what looked like a sheepish grin, not that anyone could tell exactly what his expression was with that mask on.
"Sorry, Hokage-sama, it just seemed there was something interesting going on in here."
"Don't worry about it." Tsunade said, obviously something formulating something.
"Kakashi would you be up for a special assignment?"
A raised eyebrow was the man's only response.
The telltale sound of wood splintering meant that they were close. Sakura knew exactly whom she needed in this team. It was all about balance, harmony. The most important tenet instilled into medics was that there had to be balance in everything from a bowl of ramen to the reconstruction of vital organs. She was a medic, Jiraiya was a ninjutsu and taijitsu specialist, so her three other members had to complement, not disrupt the two.
As they drew closer, the sound stopped, as if sensing the two.
"Who goes there, who interrupts the raging training of my youth?" a voice called, loud but squeaky.
Jiraiya looked at Sakura in horror, "Oy, you don't mean you intend to bring…"
Sakura just nodded, oblivious to the look of worry on the older man's features.
"But his master…it's that noisy moron."
Sakura silenced him with a glare, "Regardless he is among the finest Taijitsu experts in Konoha, and he happens to be Naruto's friend. Two birds, one stone"
"I can hear you, show yourself or feel the power of a young man's wrath." the squeaky voice called again.
The owner of the squeaky voice perked up as he heard that voice.
"Sakura-channnnn!" Lee almost sung.
"Maybe now she is going to admit it…that she can't resist the undying flame of my passion," Lee's mind rambled.
"I need your help."
"Sakura-Chan needs my help…thank you god thank you, I shall do one thousand laps in your honor," the ramblings continuing.
"Anything for you, undying flower of my heart."
A very visible shudder reverberated through Jiraiya's spine but what surprised him was that all the while Sakura was smiling at Lee, personally Jiraiya half felt like silencing the green suited shinobi with a multitude of techniques, but hey…that's just him.
Sakura almost sensed the Sanin's thoughts and turned around armed with a glare before turning back to Lee, all traces of the glare gone.
"Please, Lee, help me save Naruto."
The Hyuuga complex was well known for its size and grandeur and the people of the Hyuuga clan for their belief in meditation and the ideal that training the mind was as important as training the body. Of course one could see why one Neji Hyuuga was slightly more than mildly annoyed when his old teammate interrupted this most sacred of clan activities.
"This had better be important Lee." an exasperated Neji sighed at his old teammate and friend.
"It is." a female voice sounded from behind.
Peering behind Lee's bowl-head Neji was surprised to see the pink haired kunoichi of team seven being accompanied by the famous white haired frog Sanin. Neji smirked to himself, when Lee brought company, he brought company.
"A Hyuuga eh? Good choice." Jiraiya whispered to Sakura. He knew firsthand how effective Hyuuga's were in so many situations. There was after all, the issue of tracking this medical genius; he was as elusive as he was skilled Jiraiya knew that firsthand as well from that meeting all those years ago, even Sarutobi-Sensei, famed to be the greatest tracker in all of Konoha had taken two weeks to find him.
This great medic ninja was said to be hundreds of years old, no one knew where he had come from and no one knew where he was at any given time. He was like the wind, arriving at any place precisely when there was need to. The rumors led Konoha believe that he was living in the Sand country but then again, how true were wild rumors?
Jiraiya was broken out of his mental reprieve by three sets of eyes staring at him.
"Fantasizing about women again." Sakura said
Lee and Neji just nodded.
"What do you need from me Lee?" Neji began.
Sakura interrupted with a faraway look in her eyes; "Naruto is in trouble, we need to save him or he will die, would you like to participate in this mission Hyuuga Neji?"
Neji whirled around and faced Sakura, all the serene thoughts of meditation and peace flung from his mind at the mention of Naruto. Neji had heard rumors that he was still alive but he didn't know that the one opponent he hadn't defeated yet was right under his nose. He would save him, if only to show Naruto how much stronger he had gotten.
He nodded in Sakura's direction, no words needed to convey his thoughts
To any passer by the group of four that walked with such determination, such vigor in each step that one automatically moved out their way. A motley crew indeed; a pretty, young female leading a watermelon-head, jumpsuit clad male…a calm, cold Hyuuga of all things and an old man whose eyes seemed preoccupied with the women's bathhouse across the street.
Their destination was oddly enough, the old Ninja academy where pre-Genins learnt the theoretic that was to be needed in the real world.
Sakura had to think hard about who was going to be the last member of their team, she knew that she wanted someone who had the odd combo of being skilled in both Taijitsu and Genjitsu…and of course, someone who was connected to Naruto. She would have liked to bring Ino but she had a son to worry about and she did not want to be responsible if something happened, that left Shikamaru out as well. No that left only one person, Ino's student and an old friend of Naruto's.
"Sensei, Taro-Kun took my lunch!" a shrill cry rang from the playground where the students were, well, playing.
The group edged closer to see a young man, not older than 19, with a look of pure frustration etched on his tired features trying to hold a feisty girl away from a boy of the same age who was sticking his tongue out at her. This for some reason elicited a chuckle from Sakura, she sighed, feeling her age. She was fast approaching the big three zero and in her heart she was still fighting a battle that had started one and a half decades ago.
Sakura knew though, above anyone else that this young man was one of the most skilled ninja's of his generation, but who would doubt it, after all, in his veins flowed the blood of arguably Konoha's best Shinobi.
"Konohamaru-Kun!" Sakura yelled out.
The young man turned around upon hearing his name, hardly anyone called him –Kun these days.
"Sakura, nee-san, long time no see." he said subconsciously scratching the back of his head. So much like how he did. Somewhere in that split second as Konohamaru was talking time went back for her, she saw the young Naruto, orange jumpsuit, bright eyes; then she thought of him lifeless in the intensive care unit, eyes deadly sullen and skin pale.
No, she would save him.
"Nee-san?" Konohamaru said, nudging Sakura.
She noticed the others staring at her, obviously she had blanked out.
"Sorry, sorry, I was a million miles away." Sakura muttered sheepishly
She steeled herself before continuing, "Konohamaru-Kun, could you come with us please, the Hokage would like to have a few words with you".
The seriousness on her face and in her words showed that this was a serious matter indeed.
"Sure, let me ask Onizuka-Sensei to help take care of my class for the moment, he should have a free period."
With that the grandson of the Sandaime went around the corner and returned a few second late, this time wearing his mission vest.
With a nod to Sakura the quintet began on their way to Hokage Mountain, spurned by some unknown force.
"You're late!" Tsunade said with a small smile as she viewed the team assembled by her apprentice. To be honest she was surprised by the inclusion of the Lee boy, Jiraiya was more than enough Taijitsu for one team but then again, on more than one occasion Sakura's intuition had proved sound so she didn't feel the need to argue.
"Tsunade-hime, these kids want an explanation." Jiraiya spoke, breaking the silence.
"Very well." Tsunade nodded. "First I need the five of you to understand here that this is absolutely confidential, no one must know about this mission, are we in agreement?"
A mutual nod resonated from the group.
"Naruto, as some of you know is the container of the Kyuubi."
If she was expecting shocked expressions she wasn't getting it here. After Naruto's departure from Konoha the secret Sarutobi had tried to keep hidden had gotten out.
She continued, seeing no objection to the one line she had said thus far, she continued, "Naruto was attacked recently, by Akatsuki. They tried to remove the fox but Jiraiya there" she said, pointing at the Sanin, "halted the attack. The damage was done however, to put it simply, since Naruto and the Kyuubi had been merged for so long their Chakra had merged and in the failed extraction of the Kyuubi the assailant had damaged Naruto's chakra pathways beyond repair. Beyond repair for me that is."
Audible gasps from Konohamaru and Lee could be heard as Neji just stroked his chin, his eyes deep in thought.
"You are the most renowned Healer in all of the fire country, if you can't save him who can?" he said, hand still on his chin.
"There is one person, one Healer who is said to have the powers of a god. Do you remember the old Sand twins?"
It had been fourteen years since that mission, so long ago yet it was so vivid in all their minds…well, except Konohamaru, and he was still perfecting Harem-no-Jutsu back then.
With a sad smile Tsunade continued, "Well this man was their master-"
She was interrupted by Lee, "But Hokage-Sama, if this man was their master wouldn't he have been long dead by now?"
"He's not dead, isn't he, sensei?" Sakura interjected.
"No, he's not. No one knows how old he is or where he is from, just that he has a particular affinity for the Hidden Sand. It might be because he was from the sand or that he just likes the food there, no one knows. All we know is what Gaara-Kun told me."
She rummaged in her drawer and removed a letter emblazoned with the seal of the Kazekage.
"From what my people inform me, this person you are looking for left this village two years ago in the direction of the Hasuya Mountains. I looked further into this like you asked and uncovered something very odd. This man or someone just like him has been reported as taking up residence in this village for the past two hundred years, never staying longer than ten years. Each time under a different name. I am sorry that we cannot be of more help. Gaara." she read.
"The Hasuya Mountains? That's not really far if we take some shortcuts." Jiraiya wondered out loud.
"Shortcuts through hostile territory, you mean." Sakura interrupted.
Jiraiya's shortcut would mean that they would have to cross two countries, both hostile to Konoha. Earth and Akatsuki's current home of the Water country.
"You are Konoha, and further more you are Shinobi. Stealth is one of our tenants. There is no such thing as being caught unless we want to be." Tsunade countered with a small glare at her apprentice.
Sakura mumbled a small sorry.
"Your mission is simple, find this man, and bring him back. This is his home. We owe this much at least after the way the village treated someone who risked his life for it time and again. Understand I'm not guaranteeing that any of you will come back alive. You will face the unknown in a land far away from home. Any objections?"
The sounds of silence greeted her and she smiled.
"Rest up, get your supplies. Say your goodbyes. Meet me at the gates at dawn tomorrow."
Her smile widened as the group left her office. She knew that she was entrusting Naruto to people who would do their utmost for him.
Im looking forward to writing the coming chapter due to the fact that since the party is out of konoha i have loads more creative license XD