A/N: Okay . . . so I know tons of people want to kill me for not updating for, like, four months. The reason is because I didn't have internet. I used to have dial-up, and I JUST NOW got wireless. Thank god. And then I got writers block, plus I have tons of homework and studying for the SAT and AP Exams. Lots of stuff to do, so expect more delays. I don't really have a secure schedule right now . . . . PLUS my mom is getting married May 19 and my dad is getting married April 21 and I have to be in BOTH ceremonies blah blah blah . . . blah.
I don't know when I'll start writing that other story. I plan to, though, so don't lose hope!
Thanks for the reviews (80!). I got lots of people begging me to update, which helped to motivate me. I even got an email! O.o
By the way, if you're looking for good Sakura angst, I would recommend "Don't Touch Me" by Kioji. It's one of my obsessions right now.
Till next time (and forgive me!),
On to the chapter!
Chapter Four: Moon Phase - Waking Dreams
The first thing she was aware of was the fear. She didn't know what had caused it, it was just there. Like a primal instinct, existing as a necessity.
Her arms hurt, her legs hurt, her neck hurt, her back hurt. There was pain all over. Why? She wracked her brain for an explanation, but ended up with nothing. Her thoughts were fuzzy, and she felt like she had been hit over the head with a blunt edge repeatedly.
She thought of opening her eyes, but they were already open, and all she saw was black and red. The empty plane stretched into the distance unbroken, and the full moon above her was blood red.
The fear was still there. She focused on it, and it came to her in fuzzy, broken images, like a bad memory.
The mission, the ambush . . . the deaths. The blood.
Crimson eyes to match the blood on his hands, tomoes spinning maddeningly as his intense gaze locked on her.
She shivered at the memory. She could still feel it, an echoing pain in her chest where he had stabbed her, his katana piercing her flesh easily. And her eyes . . .
His husky voice in her ear, behind her, breath ghosting across the skin of her neck. Her own breath hitched in fear as she flinched and tried to turn around but she was lashed tightly to a cross, legs bound together and arms spread-eagled.
He was in front of her.
"Tsukiyomi." She whispered, shocked by her sudden realization as she stared at him. She had ceased struggling to free herself, knowing it was impossible. She was in his world now, and he was in control.
"Aa. For seventy-two hours you will stay here." He replied softly. "For seventy-two hours you will suffer, tortured by my mangekyou."
"Why?" She was so confused, and there was still that betraying hope, but it was slowly being crushed by the cold fist of fear in her stomach. The mangekyou was said to drive some people insane. Even Kakashi had been greatly defeated by it, and he was her sensei, he was stronger than her. She had always looked up to him, even if he had dismissed her from the beginning as weak. She had insisted on being the one to treat him the entire time he was at the hospital recovering, wanting him to have the best care possible. How could she be expected to survive something that he had gone up against, and lost to?
"This is your first test." His gaze was still so empty as he spoke, "Your weakness stems from your weak will and misconceptions. You haven't been through enough. I need to break you."
She faintly wondered if he could break her more than she already was.
He probably could.
"Survive this, and I will know that you have the capacity to become stronger."
Capacity . . . she had heard that word used so many times before. Sasuke had always said it with such seething anger, dreaming of the day he would one day avenge his clan, but his brother was the exact opposite. So calm . . . how could a person be so empty?
"What about my eyes?" How do I fight blind? When she was weak enough when she could see . . .
"That's your problem, kunoichi. Being blinded was your choice. After this, you have a month to train yourself until I come for you. If you have not learned to fight without your sight by then, I will kill you. Understand?"
He would kill her, she knew. And without hesitation or guilt.
Uchiha Itachi would not suffer weakness.
And yet, that was what she needed.
"H-hai." She managed to choke out around her fear.
"Good. Let's begin."
And she screamed.
Her apprentice's body was splayed out on the cold concrete floor of the room, in the middle of a healing circle. Ink symbols were etched on her skin and made their way from her body to the circle, and then out to the larger circle in five different paths, where at least ten different medic nins were needed to pour their chakra into the pathways and stabilize her body as the frantic healing process continued. The chakra in the circle had to stay constant and balanced, or the entire process could be screwed up, and Sakura would die.
Despite being a part of the circle themselves, Tsunade and Shizune were forced to keep a resilient eye on the other medic-nins, looking for dangerous signs of fatigue. The minute one's chakra flow began to waver, they had a replacement come in and take the place of the tired medic without breaking the fragile flow of chakra.
Tsunade and Shizune themselves were beginning to tire as well. They were disciplined medics, but it had been over twelve hours of nonstop chakra flow and healing, and the effects were beginning to show. Tsunade had dark bags under her eyes, her body was covered in sweat, and her skin was pale and wan from chakra overexertion. Her arms were shaking even as she kept up her constant flow of chakra, and she knew that Shizune would probably need to be replaced soon before she fainted.
Tsunade herself refused to leave the circle until the process was over. As a skilled medic, she knew that if she pushed herself to her limits she could last for a long time.
Hours passed by like days as their chakra continued to light up the bare room with a sickly green glow, assistants coming in and out to supply the working medics with anything that they needed. Shizune eventually grew too exhausted, and was replaced by a new medic nin and lead to a seperate recovery room, where she collapsed in a dead faint from her efforts. She would most likely not wake up for a while.
Tsunade's determination had not yet wavered, unlike her all too human body. The healing process had progressed to the point where the formerly fatal wound in her apprentice's chest had stopped bleeding profusely, and was almost healed to the point where she was no longer in danger of dying. Tsunade had had to have multiple volunteers enter periodically to give blood to the patient, because her body had lost too much for her to make up for it. Among these had been Shikamaru, and he had been more than a little ashen-hued when he had been dismissed, both from the blood loss and the visage of his fallen comrade.
"Hokage-sama." The low-pitched voice brought her out of her concentration, and she nodded to the medic to tell her to continue. The woman was one of the medics in charge of monitoring the inner circle, focusing on healing the flesh of the patient, whereas the outer circle stabilized the chakra flow and life functions.
"I was sent to inform you that the chest wound has been mostly healed. What do you need us to do next?"
Tsunade paused for a moment. If the wound had been closed and scabbed over, then Sakura's body could most likely handle the rest of the healing of it on its own. It would be better to turn their attention on the rest of her wounds. She paused as she stood up wearily, swaying a little as a wave of nausea and dizziness hit her from the sudden change in position.
"I'm fine," She mumbled, waving a worried assistant away as she put a hand to her forehead, massaging her temples. She looked to the medic in front of her, who was watching her expectantly. "I would like to get a look at the facial wound now."
She followed the medic over the the center circle, where she kneeled and brushed her apprentice's bangs away from her face, grimacing a little when the hairs resisted slightly because they were stuck to the crusted blood on her forehead.
Blood. She had always hated it.
After calling for a towel and hot water, she began to wipe Sakura's face, washing away the blood and cleaning the wound. She could barely see Sakura's features through the red.
When she was finished she sat back on her heels for a moment and rested her head in her hands. Biting her lip until she tasted blood, she tried to stifle the emotions that were threatening to take away her rational thought. The extent of the damage was enough to make her sick.
Starting at about an inch from the corner of her right eye, a deep gash sliced across Sakura's face, crossing the middle of both eyes, cutting across the bridge of her nose, and ending a bit past the left eye. Although a clean stroke, the damage was devastating, and Tsunade could tell that it had been made by the same katana that caused the chest wound.
She took deep breaths, trying to calm herself. Thank god it was a katana, and a sharp one at that. If the cut had not been as clean then it could have been much worse.
Putting a hand a few inches above the damage, she began to channel chakra into the wound and through the torn flesh, slowly forming a visual map of the wound in her head. The outer eye was pierced, she noted, but luckily the damage did not reach into the inner eye, and it was virtually untouched. It would take a while, but with the right amount of chakra control and effort, she was sure that she could make her apprentice's eyes whole again. Despite that, she was also quite sure that she would be permanently blind.
She directed her medics to help her begin to pour chakra into the wound, and tears began to slip out of Tsunade's eyes as she worked, knowing full well the impact that this news would have on Konoha.
Sakura . . .
That was how long it had taken her and the other medic to heal Sakura's eyes. After, Tsunade had passed out, and had to be carried to a place to rest until she was ready to see her patient again.
When she had finally woken up, she had been frantic for a few moments, not remembering what had happened to her apprentice. Then it had rushed back all at once, and she had had to stifle the tears all over again. Shizune had been waiting for her when she awoke, and had patted her back soothingly as she collected herself. Only Shizune and Sakura had ever been close enough to the Hokage to see her at her weakest, but it never made them think less of her. They had always taken care of her.
Now, as Tsunade regarded her apprentice's unconscious form, she felt like she had failed to return the favor. With the bandages removed again, she had finished healing the scab on her apprentice's eyes until it was no more than a thing white scar, cutting across her face. She was faintly proud, because there was no raised scar tissue or jagged edges, but in the end it was nothing to smile at. Sakura was still blind.
Out of all her medical studies, Tsunade had always known that the eye was a very fragile thing. Little was really known about healing it, because it was so complex, and research had just started to delve further into its secrets. In the end, there was not much she could do for her apprentice.
Another thing had been weighing on her mind for a few hours now.
Sakura had yet to wake up.
In the beginning it was understandable, because of the stress of the body from the healing process, but they had been infusing her body with chakra periodically, and a normal patient would have at least stirred by now. There was also the matter that the monitor showed her brain waves to be irregular. Between the healing process and her periuod of blacking out, Tsunade had not been able to truly study her apprentice, so she did so now in an effort to figure out what was wrong.
Sakura looked like hell. This was the first thing that popped into the Hokage's head.
Sakura had been growing thinner over the years, and her eyes had grown darker from fatigue and something Tsunade couldn't quite understand, but it was nothing compared to this. It looked like she had been the walking dead, and was just now beginning to return from the living. Her lips were parted, and her breathing was harsh. her hair had been washed free of the blood, improving her appearance dramatically, and her body dressed in a white hospital gown. Her hands were pale and thin, and scars had been discovered after removal of the bandages on her arms. It looked like her apprentice had been cutting herself for years, hiding it with behind bandages and a fake smile. When she had first seen them she had felt numb. They had all noticed Sakura had become distant and withdrawn, but she doubted that anyone had expected . . . this.
Naruto would most likely get depressed when he found out, and blame himself. No matter how much she learned about him, she still was surprised by his actions. He treated his teammates like family members, and felt equally responsible for them. She really did not want to imagine the look on his face when he was informed of Sakura's current position. Not only was she injured, but apparently had been hurting herself for years.
Tracing one of the scars on Sakura's arms, she tried to imagine how much pain and self-hate she would have to feel before she brought a kunai to herself like that. She must have felt so much pain. Even as Tsunade traced her scars she observed a minute tremble run through Sakura's arms. Then again.
Tsunade's breath hitched in realization. Shizune ran in at her call, and looked quizzical when she beheld her superior examining the patient intently.
Tsunade was sure she had seen this before. Twice. A slight tremor of the muscles that repeated unusually, and if her eyes weren't bandaged up so tightly, she was sure her lids would be fluttering slightly as her eyeballs moved manically underneath them, like a form of REM sleep.
The first time she had observed it was when Copy-nin Kakashi had been brought in by his comrades after being caught in the elder Uchiha's gaze. He had been out for days, so she'd had time to observe the symptoms thoroughly.
The second was only the muscle tremors, after Uchiha Sasuke had confronted his brother and been cruelly confronted with his parents death in the warped world of the mangekyou. He had left quickly after being bandaged up.
Sakura and her team had been attacked by the Akatsuki. It was not unlikely that a certain sharingan user was among those who attacked them.
"Dammit!" Tsunade cursed as the thoughts ran rampant in her head.
No wonder her apprentice wasn't waking up. She was currently under the effect of Uchiha Itachi's Tsukiyomi.
There was nothing they could do to countereact the effects. The realization hit her like a brick wall. They had to just let her suffer, and hope Sakura woke up sane.