Throwing Away III
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
A/N: This is the final part, as of now. It may seem that, in the previous chapter, Shizune was a bit harsh towards Naruto. Why she was so upset, that would be clear as the story goes. We have to remember that she is Jounin with at least double the experience (both as a Jounin and administrative service) compared to Naruto. So she can anticipate things that Naruto might not. That's all I am going to say.
On with the story.
Sakura exited the Hokage's office and ran towards the north gate of the village. Drops of tears continued to threaten to be spilled from her eyes. She continued to tell herself to be strong; she was the apprentice of the Godaime herself. She could not believe Naruto was leaving. Naruto did not give up; never! So why now?
'Please don't do it Naruto! Please don't!' Sakura continued to pray in her mind.
She had to stop him before it was too late. She had to talk to him.
Sakura reached the gate only to find Shizune waiting there. Shizune looked at her with no expression in her face. Sakura was puzzled to find her here but opted to wait silently without asking her anything. As moments passed in silence, she prepared herself over and over to deal with the situation. She had to convince Naruto to stay and she would give everything she got to accomplish that. She could not afford any mistakes.
Naruto had taken his time to pack up. He did not take many things, just a medium sized back pack. His mind played the scene with Shizune which occurred the previous night over and over again. He wanted to see her badly but knew that the situation would grow worse, for both of them. He took a last look at the village from his position and headed for the north gate.
The gate came into view a few moments later. As he neared the gate, he saw two people; one he wanted to see badly: Shizune and the other he wanted to avoid badly: Sakura. As he neared them, Shizune stood up from her sitting position. With a small bow to Sakura and a 'hi', he went to Shizune.
"Shizune-chan," he greeted the black haired woman, "its goodbye, I guess …" A hint of sadness was present in his voice. He knew he had broken her dreams, yet again, but he was glad that she was here to see him off. But, whatever answer he was expecting from Shizune, it was not this.
"No need for that, Naruto. I will be coming with you," Shizune stated calmly, revealing a small kit-bag of her own. "Although," continued Shizune, "you can say goodbye to her, if you want," she finished glancing towards Sakura. Sensing Naruto's confused state, she continued,
"I resigned last night."
Sakura was not sure if she was in her right mind, right now. She was ready to convince Naruto to abandon his goal to leave the village but Shizune's interference messed her preparations up, totally. Now she did not know what do.
"Naruto, please wait," she started.
Naruto and Shizune looked at her. She tried to find the right words.
"Naruto, please don't do this. You don't have to leave the village. Shizune please, this is madness! Please stop him!" Sakura was now on the verge of yelling.
Naruto wanted to say something but Shizune cut him off.
"What is madness, Haruno-sama? We already resigned from our duties and Hokage-sama accepted them."
"There is nothing left here for either of us; of all people you should know that, Sakura-san." Naruto added quite coldly.
Sakura took a step forward. "Please Naruto, stay here. Everything will be alright, I promise! I will make you happy, please Naruto," Sakura did not know what she was saying anymore. She knew it would not work. She knew she said the same words to Sasuke all those years back. In his case, she got a second chance; but in this case this was her last chance. She wanted to run up to him and embrace him and never let him go.
She started towards him but stopped when Naruto turned around without answering her, adjusted his backpack and started walking to the gate. Shizune shouldered her bag and took his left arm. He looked at Shizune and smiled. Without looking back he answered,
"I stopped believing in promises, Sakura."
As they walked toward the gate, Sakura stood at her spot with unbearable pain in her heart. It did not help when Shizune turned to her for a last look. Sakura flinched. It was neither anger nor mockery.
It was pity.
Naruto did not know if he should feel happy for the fact that she was with her or feel sad that she was leaving her home because of him. He had not anticipated this and hence did not have any course of action ready. Then again, he was not Shikamaru.
"Are you sure about this, Shizune-chan?" He asked with concern. "You know what this means. Once we step outside the gate, there is no going back."
"I am a Jounin too, you know," Shizune answered lazily as she leaned onto him. "And I have far more experience than you have" she added playfully.
Naruto sighed. If she wanted to accompany him, he was not going to insult her by telling her to go away. But the fact remained that he did not want to loose her. But seeing her determination, he smiled at her once more and tightened his grip of her hand. He would enjoy as long as they were together.
"Where's that necklace, Naruto?"
"I gave it back to her. Don't want to blame it for what's happening."
Shizune smiled. Together, they stepped outside the village boundaries and into uncertainty.
As they walked toward the gate, she continued to pray silently 'please do not step outside the gate, please do not…' She wanted some miracle to happen to stop them, even at the last moment. As they stepped outside the gates, she clenched her fists tightly and closed her eyes. A lone teardrop escaped her eyes.
Sakura stood in front of Tsunade, not believing what she was hearing.
"You can not be serious, Tsunade-shishou! This is Naruto we are talking about! How can you just…"
"Be quite Sakura!" Tsunade cut her off. "You know as well as I do, he resigned. That means we do not have any command on him, which in turn makes him a loose cannon. Under any circumstances, we can not allow him to join or fall in the hands of any other village or organization. Try to understand, Sakura. This is for our village."
"Loose cannon? Him a loose cannon?" yelled Sakura. "YOU created that so called loose cannon in the first place!"
"Haruno Sakura! You are not in a position to argue here! As your superior and commanding officer, I order you to take this mission! Is that clear?"
Sakura stared at her mentor for a moment and then averted her gaze. "So that's why… that's why you promoted me."
"Why me?" Sakura whispered, "Of all people why me?"
"You will understand in due time."
Her eyes shut, Sakura understood clearly. It was for Shizune. They were both Tsunade's students. Even if Sakura did not want to admit, she knew deep down, Shizune had lot more experience that she had. Moreover, she was about the only one beside the Godaime herself, who knew Shizune's fighting style, all out. Naruto was her team-mate as well. She was perfect choice for the job. She wiped the tears, her eyes still closed. She unclenched her fists and brought out a mask.
"Listen carefully. Your mission is to locate Uzumaki Naruto, once he steps outside of the village; and eliminate him." Tsunade had said.
"You are to take ANBU special units 3, 4 and Eraser unit 2, with you. You will be in charge of this mission. This mission is classified as an S ranked one. Failure will not be tolerated."
'Is she joking?' Sakura gritted her teeth. Three ANBU units plus her; fifteen goddamn ANBU assassins and herself against one lone man and she was talking about failure? It's a freaking slaughter party!
"During your mission, if you face any threat from any other source, you are to eliminate them too. Once the target is eliminated, the Eraser team will be responsible to clear up any evidence of struggle there. After completion, you are to report to me directly." Tsunade's voice was cold as steel through out her speech.
"Are your instructions clear?"
"You are dismissed."
Sakura turned and left without looking back. If she had stayed back for a few seconds more, she would have heard Tsunade's chocked heartbreaking sobs that she had been holding inside her for so long.
Sakura slowly opened her eyes, dull emotionless green eyes. As 15 ANBU members materialized behind her, she put the mask on and released the henge that kept her ANBU outfit hidden.
"Should we start, Ma'am?" a tori-masked ANBU questioned.
She looked at the gate and beyond. Naruto and Shizune were traveling fast, for they were nowhere in sight.
"Yes, let's go." With that, 16 shinobi disappeared.
She would do what needed to be done; even if it would the last thing she would do.
Naruto and Shizune were traveling quite fast compared to the civilians. They needed to find somewhere to camp before night fell. They were using the ground to travel now. Suddenly Naruto tackled Shizune to her right and a split second later the ground they were standing on exploded. He straitened up, bringing Shizune up with him. Eleven Konoha ANBU members revealed themselves, making a circular arrangement around them while the other five kept themselves hidden in the trees for backup.
"I thought she would send at most ten of them, but sixteen? What an overkill," Shizune stated eyeing all the ANBU around them.
"Congrats, Sakura." It was Naruto, standing back to back with Shizune.
"Thanks," was her brief answer. Sakura removed her mask. After all, there was no point in wearing a mask after your opponent had already recognized you.
She took a last look towards Naruto. "Sayonara."
And the onslaught began.
Their figures were blurs and covered in the shadows that the trees provided. How many were they, it was hard to figure out. Traveling at high speed, they dodged tree branches with ease. As the distance between them and Konoha continued to lessen, a voice issued an order.
"Move faster," it was a male voice. "We are already late."
They sped up. He was getting restless.
Sakura continued to breathe deeply. Finally, it was over. She looked forward. Naruto was a bloody mess. She had to use the special seal developed by Jiraiya to suppress the Kyuubi. Even then, two third of her group was either dead or injured severely. Naruto was looking at her with tired eyes, while Shizune's body lay sprawled on the forest floor in her own blood. She did not know if Shizune was alive or not. If she was, it would be for a short time. The only team that was mostly unharmed was the Eraser team. She looked into Naruto's eyes only to close her own eyes. She took another deep breath to still herself.
"Tori, clear up the mess," She commanded.
"Right away, ma'am."
It was purely her instinct that she turned left in time to find the small knife embedded in her back, missing her lung by a fraction.
"Tori! What are you trying …" she was cut off by another knife penetrating her lower abdomen.
"Cleaning up the mess, ma'am."
Blood flowed from her mouth. Her eyes wide, she looked at the tori-masked ANBU who drew back the knife from her abdomen only to drive it back in again, while her other teammates watched with expressionless masks. She let out a small cough of blood and fell on the ground on her back. She felt a burning sensation in her wounds. 'Poison' she thought. A dog masked ANBU came into her view preparing to do a jutsu.
"Why?" she choked out, which came out more like a gurgle. Blood flowed from her wounds and mouth, non-stop.
The tori masked ANBU, leader of the Eraser team, stopped the dog-masked one.
"No jutsu," tori reminded.
It was two hours before Sakura was briefed by the Hokage. Captains of the three teams, ANBU teams 3 and 4, and Eraser team 2, were briefed in the Hokage office by the Godaime herself.
"Your teams are assigned the mission to eliminate Uzumaki Naruto, who will be leaving the village approximately two hours from now. Haruno Sakura will be leading your teams. You are to eliminate him and any other threats that accompany him. Is that clear?"
After a chorus of affirmations, Tsunade continued, "However that is only the first part of the mission. There is a second part of your mission and a vital one. Once Uzumaki is eliminated," Tsunade paused to gain her composure,
"You are to eliminate Haruno Sakura."
"Remember not to use any regular ANBU elimination jutsu. Let it look like doing of Naruto or, preferably, Shizune. She uses poison," she continued on.
"Any questions? If not, you are all dismissed."
Another chorus of affirmation and the captains were gone.
The dog masked ANBU slapped the side of Sakura's face to clear away any blood in her mouth and forced open her mouth so that she was inhaling by her mouth. She tried to resist but she did not have sufficient strength. Tori brought out a bottle with some purple substance inside. Sakura watched helplessly at her death. Suddenly everything was clear; everything was making sense, fitting perfectly in the puzzle. Shizune was not the cause that she had been chosen for this mission, no at all. It was for this to happen. She remembered Shizune's words helplessly.
It was another argument between them.
"Pawn am I?" laughed Shizune. "And I suppose you are queen?" another bitter laugh. "You seem to be so proud of that."
"Why should not I be?" Sakura asked with a cocky smile.
"You are very skillful, I admit. But one thing you seriously lack Haruno-sama, and that is your sight beyond bookish knowledge. You lack real experiences and foresight." Shizune had said.
"Oh?" Another cocky smile from Sakura. "As I can see, that helped you a lot," sarcasm dripping from her voice.
"Just because you are promoted to queen does not mean you can move at your own will. You still need someone to command you around. And if that someone wants, he can sacrifice you even more useless way than a pawn," Shizune spat.
"Don't forget, Haruno-sama, you were a pawn too."
She was indeed a pawn, played along all the time. Now that her job was finished, she had to be sacrificed because she was the only witness of the injustice to Naruto. With her gone, everything would be clean, again. She wanted to laugh, hard. After all theses years of her devotion, this was how she would die, as a damn tool. She remembered Naruto's question to Kakashi about ninja being a tool after the Wave country mission. She saw the drops of the liquid coming down to her face. She wanted to laugh again; she can tell the chemical composition of that liquid, how she would die and even what would her body look like after her death.
With all that knowledge, she had not anticipated this death.
She closed her eyes. With her consciousness slipping, she remained still waiting for the liquid to hit her face, to enter her mouth. She felt the hand, forcing her mouth to remain open, leave her face. Even then she did not try to resist. She felt so useless then. She wanted to die like Naruto and Shizune, like a free human. She could not even do that.
'Sorry Naruto, Shizune-san…' was all she could think of before she felt the liquid hit her face and darkness took over her. Had she kept her eyes open, she would have been astonished to see that the liquid that hit her face was not purple anymore.
It was crimson.
Tsunade sat on her desk, looking at the pictures. One was a group photo of Naruto, Jiraiya, Shizune and herself; and the other one was Sakura and herself. With a trembling hand, she reached for her necklace and gripped it tightly. She continued to stare at the pictures. This was not like last two times, where she had no control over her family's death. This time, it was her who had given the orders.
This time, she could not blame the stupid necklace anymore.
Three figures stood in the middle of the battlefield.
"Was this dramatic last minute entry really necessary?" Naruto asked in between his strained breathing.
"As long as it works," Gaara threw away the remains of the Eraser team from his 'desert graveyard'.
Some drops of blood splattered on the face of an unconscious Sakura.
It had been one week since the team lead by Haruno Sakura was dispatched for an S-class assassination mission. Not one member of the team returned alive. It was four days after their deployment that Tsunade received a report from the hidden sand village, that some bodies were found in the no man's land between the two countries. Some bodies were mangled and burned beyond recognition. Sand shinobi accounted for eighteen bodies but found only sixteen Konoha headbands. Out of those eighteen bodies, ten bodies were burnt to crisps and hence were not preserved but the traces were sent. The rest of the bodies were sent to Konoha.
An analysis on Konoha's side revealed that sixteen of the traces/bodies were identified as shinobi of Konoha, namely Haruno Sakura (detected from the traces as her body was one of the burnt bodies) and her team. Official reports issued by Godaime herself also indicated that there were traces of two more persons whose identity could not be determined from the current database of Konoha and Sand. They were probably civilians, caught in the crossfire.
Nobody asked Godaime if that current database contained entries for Uzumaki Naruto and Shizune.
Today was the funeral of the heroes who died. They would get their names on the memorial stone. Heart-melting speeches, loads of flowers, some tears, and numerous nervous breakdowns would follow. Although, many would be surprised to see Hyuuga Hiashi glare the Hokage, even though there were no Hyuuga among the dead. But nobody would know that how close they were to an uprising which was stopped by the sudden death of Haruno Sakura and 'departure' of Uzumaki Naruto.
At the end of the day, Tsunade stood in front of the memorial stone, her eyes on the last name on the stone, Haruno Sakura. Two more names came to her mind that would never be on there. She bit back a sob. She had lost her family once again. No, lost is not the word. She had killed her family. Now she would wait patiently.
She would wait until her name was also on the stone.
She felt the knife stab her again and again. She was drowning in the purple liquid. She tried to go to the surface but four hands kept her down. She tried to get out from their vice like grip. She turned to punch the attackers, and froze. They were dead bodies with lifeless eyes and mouths open. Naruto and Shizune's bodies. They were bringing her down, deeper and deeper into the pool. She killed them and now they are killing her. She screamed.
Sakura woke up with a start.
Immediately, Shizune was beside her, calming her down. She kept on panicking for some more minutes before she actually registered her state. She stared at Shizune and again started to panic.
"Calm down Sakura, it's me, Shizune" Shizune soothed her, "you are OK, everything is OK. Calm down."
"I am alive, how… you are …" Sakura started to tremble.
"Calm down Sakura," Shizune repeated. "We are alive, as are you. You are still week. Don't worry, you are out of danger." She slowly pushed down Sakura to the bed.
Sakura slowly tried to catch up Shizune's words. She was alive and the person she intended to kill was taking care of her. As her brain started to function in a faster pace, many questions popped in her mind. Where was she? How did she get here? Why were they alive? Is Shizune was alive then…'Naruto! Is he … Please tell me that he is alive,' she started to look around.
As if sensing her thoughts, Shizune stated, "Naruto is alright, too." She offered a glass of water to Sakura, which she gladly accepted.
A brown haired lady, whom Sakura remembered as Yuri, the wife of the Kazekage, came into the room. She was followed by the Kazekage himself and Naruto.
Naruto looked at her an expression bordering to concern.
"Are you OK Sakura?"
She looked at Naruto and gripped the bed-sheet hard. Just a moment ago, she wanted to see him. And now, when he was in front of her, her all rational thinking came to a crashing halt. She felt like dirt compared to them, compared to him. Slowly she started to cry, emitting chocked sobs which gradually became wails. Shizune was quick to act. Green chakra covered hand pressed on her forehead and Sakura was asleep again.
"You know that is impossible Gaara. You can not cover for us for rest of our lives." Naruto was trying to turn down Gaara's offer of them staying at Sand permanently.
"Don't be so stubborn, whisker-face. It will be easier for all of you." Temari countered earning a glare from the said whisker-face.
It was two weeks after Sakura first woke up. Currently, she was sitting in the other room but kept her ears open. She still could not find the strength to look at the eyes of Naruto or Shizune directly. All these days, Shizune and Yuri, who was also a medic, nursed her back to health. Even after she almost killed them, they still cared for her as if nothing happened in the first place. She wanted them to express their rage on her by any means. Even simple yelling would be fine compared to this.
She did not want to a pitiful object to them.
She again heard Naruto's voice.
"Even if you cover for us, what about her? Even if I and Shizune are discovered here, they would not able to do anything because we are civilians; or if we accept your other offer, we are sand shinobi. But Sakura's case is different. She is practically dead to them. In her case, if she is discovered, that would be treated as treason, and you know where that will put the relationship between the two villages."
"I agree with Naruto. We have to leave," Shizune supported him.
Sakura clenched her fists. It was always her, always the weak link, always needed to be saved. She felt like she was back in her genin team. And now, they are protecting her, even after she had destroyed there home. She stared at the sky through open window and made a decision. They can get the home they both wanted here.
She destroyed their previous one, but she would give them this one.
That night, a lone figure walked out of the Kazekage mansion towards the village gate. Taking a last look at the mansion, she started to walk only to be interrupted by a voice.
"Took you long enough, Sakura. We were starting to think that you have fallen asleep." Naruto stood leaning on a tree, a small smile on his lips. Shizune was leaning on his shoulder with one of his arms supporting her.
Sakura looked at them but quickly averted her eyes as Naruto looked at her.
"Let's go Sakura. We have a long path ahead".
"Why?" She whispered, "Why are you doing this Naruto?"
"Why are not you mad with me? I almost killed you, destroyed your dreams!" Sakura's voice was rising. "Why are you still caring for me?"
"Hey, Sasuke almost killed me too, back then. And …"
"Because this is not your fault, Sakura", Shizune continued for Naruto, now standing straight.
"Stop pitying me! I don't want to be pitiful!" Sakura was crying by now. "I would like to be dead rather than living with pity! I would rather …"
"And they thought that you are the smartest kunoichi in our batch," Naruto promptly cut her off.
"The great Haruno Sakura, apprentice of Godaime herself; she can recognize even the rarest poison by just one look, she can diagnose a disease just by hearing the symptoms" continued Naruto, "but she can not differentiate between pity and friendship, even after experiencing it for years. And they call me an idiot."
Sakura looked at them with wide eyes to see them both smiling. She did not deserve their friendship. She did not deserve anything. She wanted to say something but nothing came out. She heard his voice once again.
"Come on Sakura, you can do better than that," Naruto grinned, the same bright grin, the same grin that she was used to. "Let's get a fresh start at life, Sakura. All three of us. What do you say?"
With a chocked sob, she took off towards Naruto and crashed into his chest, her arms encircling his back and started to pour down all her tears she held all those days. Naruto looked at Shizune, who gave a smile and a nod. He slowly brought his arms up and embraced her while she cried her heart out. A moment later, Shizune came up from her behind and put a supporting hand on her shoulder. Sakura looked at her and tried to give a small smile, tears still flowing freely from her eyes.
"Let's go, then." Naruto took Shizune's hand and started toward the gate, his left hand still supporting Sakura.
"You are always welcome to the Sand, Naruto." Gaara's voice rang out. They looked back to see the sand siblings were there.
"I will remember that … brother."
The trio disappeared into the darkness of the night to search for their new start.
End A/N: I think I answered all the questions from the previous chapter. Obviously, Gaara got the bird. As for who sent it, read the last line story in the previous chapter. Sorry to disappoint those who wanted Sai to appear or wanted more ROOTS action but I just included ROOTS so that we understand how Sakura became a politically important person unwillingly and became an important target of both the sides. The ending may seem a bit … off, but this gives me the chance to write a sequel if I want to (It'll take time, of course). Then again, it's your job to tell me how it was, so please review! Thanks for reading my story!