"Interconnected"

When Sakura and Sasuke returned from the village of Ame, they were greeted warmly by the Godaime together with Shizune, Naruto, Neji and Ino. Out of pure coincidence, Naruto's team also returned on the same day. "How was the mission, Sakura-chan?" Shizune asked with a warm smile. Sakura smiled back in response as she said, "It was fine, Shizune-nee-san. We encountered a few opponents but nothing serious happened. Aki-kun was really nice too."

"Ne, Sasuke-teme! We arrived here first! That means we're better than you! Hahahahaha!" Naruto laughed loudly causing a sweatdrop to form on Ino's head. "Shut up, you dope." She said in pure disgust. "Beat that, Sasuke-teme!" Naruto challenged with a goofy smile on his face. And as the usual part goes, Sasuke does nothing in reply but say, "Dobe..."

"Sakura, why is there a gash on your leg?" Tsunade asked while eyeing the thin gash on the young kunoichi's right leg. It was barely visible but it was there and it wasn't healing. "Huh? Uh, I don't know... I tried healing it after encountering the Akatsuki ninja who was using chakra strings but it wouldn't heal..." Sakura tried to shrug it off but Tsunade insisted that it must be checked properly. She also questioned both Sakura and Sasuke while examining the young kunoichi's wound.

"Were you both attached to the ninja's strings?" Tsunade asked. Sakura and Sasuke both nodded in response. Tsunade's lips formed a thin line as she looked at both of them with a serious expression on her face. "Shizune, please assist Naruto and the others to go out. Sakura and Sasuke would have to stay." The Godaime was dead serious but both Sakura and Sasuke were clueless as to what was the reason behind such demeanor.

"Um, ano... Tsunade-shishou, might I ask, what is this all about?" Sakura asked while eyeing the Godaime who sat behind her desk. She took one book from her book case and opened it. She scanned and turned a few pages until she found what she was looking for. "I think you two might want to look at this." Tsunade pushed the book towards Sakura and Sasuke, for them to read its contents. "Divine String Attachment Curse." Sakura read aloud but was still puzzled about what it meant. She looked at Tsunade hoping to find a answer.

Tsunade looked at Sakura, then, shifted her eyes and looked at the Uchiha prodigy. "Sasuke, show me your right leg." Tsunade told the young ninja. Sasuke stood up and examined his right leg in front of the Hokage. He found a thin and barely visible scar. Identical to that of Sakura's. "I think the Akatsuki ninja that you encountered placed a curse on both of you. The Divine String Attachment Curse is not a curse that's meant to destroy. I'm afraid, it has a life-time effect to the persons to whom it was released. The scars on both your legs are the evidence that your both are in a way... attached... interconnected." The Godaime looked at both the young Chuunins in front of her but they still looked a bit confused about what she was saying to them.

"Sakura, give me your hand." She told the young kunoichi. Sakura obediently extended out her right hand as Tsunade held it carefully. Then, the Hokage took out a kunai from her pocket. She pierced the tip of Sakura's index finger. Blood seeped out of the tiny wound. At the same time, Sasuke's index finger from his right hand also began to bleed. "This is the effect of the curse. If one of you is hurt, both of you will feel the pain. If one of you is wounded, the other will also be wounded. And when one of you feels a strong emotion like deep sadness or pure happiness, the other will somehow feel it too. I still don't know the cure for this curse but I promise you both that I will do the best that I can." Tsunade said.

"I have a question." The Uchiha prodigy announed. "What is it?" Tsunade asked. "Why hasn't the curse taken effect immediately after the battle? We should have figured it out afterwards." Sasuke was indeed intelligent.

"The curse only takes effect three or four days after it has been released. You cannot detect it as to when it was given that's why you could not intercept nor stop it. For now, you two would have to bear with the curse while I sort things out and find a cure." The Godaime spoke carefully.

After three days of rest, Sakura and Sasuke were both back into training. Sasuke trained with Kakashi while Sakura had to continue trainng with Haru in using the katana. She had greatly improved with the use of the katana and can maintain a full-blown head to head combat against Haru for almost three hours. Haru was quite pleased with the result of Sakura's training. "Ne, Sakura-chan, your skills have greatly improved! Congratulations!" Haru complimented the young kunoichi.

Panting and slightly sweaty because of training, Sakura had to smile because of what her mentor had said. All her hardwork had been rewarded. She was also quite pleased with the fact that she doesn't think of Sasuke too much anymore. Her training had really kept her occupied. "Ready for another round, Haru-sensei?!" She challenged the Jounin as she held the katana up front, with its tip pointing towards her mentor.

Haru had to smile at the perseverance of his student. "Hmm... Maybe next time, Sakura-chan..." The Jounin looked at his watch and heaved a tiresome sigh. "I have to come by Tsunade's office right now. Something to do with paperwork and all those stuff. Besides, you look awfully tired. I think I'll dissmiss you eralier today." Haru patiently explained.

Sakura showed an exaggerated disappointment on her face but did not complain further. "Can I continue training alone then? Since I don't have anything to do for the rest of the day..." Sakura tried to explain and looked hopefully at the Jounin. Haru contemplated on it for a while and finally decided to say yes. Sakura was afterall, a medical ninja. He was confident that whatever injury she might acquire, she can heal it all on her own. "I'll say yes but only if you promise me that you will not overdo yourself." Haru smiled as he crossed his arms across his chest.

"I promise, Haru-sensei! Don't worry! I can handle myself!" Sakura cheerfully said. After saying their good-byes, Haru disappeared in a whirl of smoke. On the other hand, all alone in the forest, Sakura was feeling a little weird. She suddenly felt a strong emotion of self-pity. She hated how she felt. She looked pathetic. 'Pathetic.' The word echoed inside her mind like a poweful mantra. 'Weak.' The word suddenly popped up inside her mind. She hated the feeling of being weak, useless and pathetic. She didn't like it one bit. In one swift gush of the wind, Sakura's personality changed. It was as if she was altered. All she felt was hunger... Hunger for power...

Sakura lifted her katana in pure concentration. She began to think of each attack that she learned using her katana and thought of ways how to dodge or do a counter-attack to each attack. By the end of the afternoon, she was able to do a new and personalized set of counter-attacks and blocks to match against the basic attacks of Konoha's Secret Sword Technique. She began to weave patterns of attacks of her very own sword technique.

It was already dusk, the sun was beginning to settle down and give way to the night. Sasuke was panting slowly with a Chidori on his right hand. He was doing a sparring against Kakashi, who promised to sparr with him while holding the Icha-Icha Paradise in one hand and also promised not to use any form of jutsu. Sasuke gritted his teeth in extreme concentration. Their sparring already stretched for two hours but it seemed that he could not beat the Jounin.

"Tired already? Hmm... Why don't we make the deal easier? If by any way, you make me drop the Icha-Icha Paradise book that I'm holding and use my other hand against you, then, I will teach you another special jutsu. But if you can't do that by the end of the day, then, you'll have additional physical endurance exercises for tommorrow's training. Is it a deal?" Kakashi smiled good-naturedly at the young Chuunin.

"Deal." Sasuke hastily replied. Sasuke closed his eyes in a brief moment. When he opened them again, they were crimson red. With the Sharingan and Chidori, he began a series of assaults against Kakashi. "Give it your all, Sasuke." Kakashi said. Sasuke threw series of punches, kicks and even swung the Chidori directly at Kakashi but the Jounin still managed to dodge the Uchiha prodigy's attacks.

Sasuke was in the middle of attacking Kakashi when he abruptly halted. He stood stupefied with his head bowing low on a tree branch. Kakashi became puzzled by the Uchiha's sudden change of behaviour. He stood on a branch across the young Uchiha and silently observed him. Sasuke still didn't move. The Chidori on his right hand was no more and not even a tiny strain of chakra came out of him. Kakashi began to be worried. Maybe he pushed the young Chuunin too much. "Hey. You okay?" Kakashi asked out of concern for his student.

tbc

a/n: sorry for the super late update... My laptop bagged down and I was so busy adjusting to my college life... Anyway, I have a new laptop now so maybe I can start updating regularly again! Ooohhh... Things are getting interesting... Please READ AND REVIEW!

Preview of Next Chapter: "Is it the Curse?"

Kakashi turned to look at the Uchiha prodigy and smiled. "You don't, huh? Anyway, I was surprised that you knew where Sakura's house was. I was even more surprised that you knew which window was Sakura's room." Kakashi waited for an explanation from the avenger about the conclusions to which he has arrived with, but none came. The avenger merely walked away with steady steps and never attempted to say any retort or explanation.