LAST CHAPTER! Hahahaha OMG it's over. Curiously, I'm very glad but also quite sad that it's come to an end. Also – side note; I may be posting a follow-up one shot of "Sting" but let me know what you think about that.

ww posed two good questions: 1) Most of legends, I made up myself because I'm a dork like that, however, the one with the girl eating the moon was based off of a Chinese folktale about vanity and beauty. I rearranged parts of it and changed the meaning to suit the story. 2) Now, Sasori was left unguarded for so long partially because he couldn't move and without anyone "fixing" his chakra veins, he wouldn't be able to regenerate them anyway. Hinata was taking care of him because of the Byakugan and because though his body was damaged, it was figured that the chakra veins were much worse off and his body would heal properly though his chakra veins wouldn't because they'd need proper care.

Also, I am totally, pleasantly surprised that almost no one thought about hurting me due to the end of the last chapter. But. All of you MAY hate me because of the outcome of this chapter, and considering it's the last chapter…well. Anyway. Last chapter, hope you like it and that you can suspend your disbelief for this chapter. So please don't stab me in the eye with a spork.


From the deep underground, she breathed.


Sakura hated the desert more than ever, if that were even possible. It wasn't her favorite climate naturally – she was used to a moister temperature or else her skin dried. It also gave her an uncomfortable rash around her ribs if she didn't use ointment. However, this wasn't a normal hate. It was the hate that was spawned from the possibility that the desert might have eaten one of Konoha's own.

The small team cell that had been sent with Hinata to retrieve Akasuna no Sasori (Sakura had been floored when she heard that he had survived the attack and a little more than angry to hear that they had been working to heal the bastard) never returned. The current Kazekage of the Sand; Gaara, said that he had sent them out that evening and they had yet to return. It wouldn't usually have been a high alert yet, but because of the precarious circumstance, it was considered one now.

A small team that consisted of herself, Naruto and Temari was sent to recover the missing shinobi and the Akatsuki member after a three hour lapse had gone by. Recover them, assist them or bring their bodies back. The thought of recovering lifeless corpses – one of them possibly being one of the Rookie Nine – made her stomach churn.

Currently, Temari was tracking them through the sands, following invisible foot prints and indicators; mostly out of formality. She knew where the cave was, but was merely making sure that there had been no detours. While Temari bent over to kick at a rock, looking at the dampness – saliva, someone had spit on it, Sakura couldn't help but ask. "What do you think happened?" it was a stupid question, but it was borne out of anger and concern.

Temari, despite her cutting edge personality, seemed to allow it to slide because of that. "The chasm is just up ahead. I can't see that they took any other detours." She ignored Sakura's question completely and it was all right for the pink haired medic – she preferred no answer to a grim one. Naruto, throughout the whole trip, had been curiously quiet; withdrawing himself. But, Sakura reminded herself, he'd gotten quite close to Hinata after he beat the ever loving hell out of her cousin. She was one of his few friends.

Sakura kept quiet, wondering why the hell Tsunade and the Kazekage would dare to send Hinata out, all alone, for such a long time. She reasoned that perhaps they had underestimated him. Like she had. The thought filled her with hot oil. Her fists clenched and a tick appeared in her jaw.

The chasm dropped down into several caves and jagged rocks. The three shinobi dropped down gracefully. Barely a rock was stirred in their wake and Temari shifted her weight once she was presented to The Cave. Her dark, harsh catty green eyes narrowed as she took in the surrounding and her nose twitched. The scent of blood was not quite old but not fresh. It was heady and plentiful. Her lips thinned and she looked over at the two Konoha shinobi. "I'm going in first, be ready," was all she said before she walked in slowly, a kunai under each hand. The scent from the cave – rusty, metallic and bittersweet was growing stronger as she stepped through the threshold, breathing in just a bit. She held back her gag reflex.

She spotted unmoving forms instantaneously and counted them: three bodies and all of them bore the symbol of Sunagakure. On her far left was the visual of a crumpled a man with no seeming injuries, but nonetheless he looked to be dead. Temari walked toward him and pressed two fingers to his pulse point, and finding none, she continued her inspection. Another man, flat on his stomach bore the crusted blood on his back like a target and his head had a gaping hole in it; thin in width but a good two or so inches in length. Temari's eyes slid to the farthest end of the cave and she saw the woman who was worse off than the other two. Her arm had been hacked neatly down the middle, to the tip of her middle finger and her calf was spliced in a half as well. A stray senbon stuck out of her neck.

The missing nin was nowhere to be found and Temari's teeth grinded together. There was also the lack of a fourth body that disturbed her. Had the Konoha girl up and left with him? Unless…perhaps Akasuna no Sasori had wanted a memento of the girl whose care he'd been under and perhaps he'd wanted to make a puppet out of her. Temari forced the thought away. For now, she was MIA not dead and therefore she would be treated neither as a traitor nor as a body. Kneeling next to each of the bodies, she took their headbands and double checked beneath the padded linen to see that their dog tags were still in them. She wove the three headbands around her belt and walked out of the cave to see Sakura and Naruto waiting, looking grim and pensive.

"Three dead, Sasori is missing and the Hyuuga," their eyes focused on her intensely, "Is missing as well. Her body wasn't in the cave." She saw that they released a breath they'd been holding and held back her sneer. No grieving for the Suna nin was necessary, per usual.

Naruto managed to make Temari's brows raise slightly, "The three, what about them?"

Temari met his gaze. "We'll have to come back for them."

"Can you track her Temari?" Naruto's voice came through, dark blue eyes intense with emotion and for a moment Temari was hypnotized by the sheer ferocity in those eyes. This was what had forced her brother to overcome the Shukaku. She shook herself from her hypnosis though and looked to the ground. She crouched down and rubbed sand and grit between her fingers. A small, pliable ball of grit came forth and it was darker, more colored. She dropped it and brushed her fingers over a rock, overturning it and found a dried blood spot.

Her lips twisted. A furrow came between her brows and then she frowned, continuing to follow the odd trail of blood droplets on the gravel and rocks. Her sandals crunched over the grit. She heard the two behind her follow her closely. Temari ignored them and thought to herself, going back and forth through theories like the movement of a pendulum.

Sasori was cocky and arrogant, certainly but he wouldn't butcher her here, at this site, would he? Assuming, of course, that he wanted to create a puppet out of the girl. There was the other off hand chance that perhaps he wasn't looking for a tool to carve from her corpse but this was merely anger at perhaps being underestimated? Temari felt something in her shiver coldly. The man was a monstrosity and whatever he'd done to the girl was perhaps the most horrid of all. Temari's brows drew together in a much more bunched, severely perturbed way. She drew herself up suddenly and stared down. The grit and rock beneath her was loose. Unnaturally so. She tensed and she felt a shudder run under her feet. The shudder was feeble and almost imperceptible but it was there nonetheless.

She backed up silently and slapped a hand over Naruto's mouth when he opened it. Something small and weak burst forth from beneath the ground.

It was tiny, pink and soft and wriggled like a worm. Temari felt her color drain when she realized what it was.

Naruto inhaled sharply and slapped Temari's arm away, diving down without a thought and began digging in handfuls. "Hold on! Hinata if you can hear me just hold on okay?!" his digging increased and rocks, sharp and small cut at his fingers in his desperation.

Sakura blinked, shook her head as if coming out of a daze and was at his side in a moment and Temari knelt beside them. The three of them dug viciously, unmindful of the cuts that were getting from the sediments slicing their fingers, their palms, they continued on heedless. A whole hand showed through first and it weakly grasped at the air blindly, looking for something to hang on to. Sakura slid her hand into the searching hand and gave a reassuring squeeze before she pulled back just as quickly and dug with a new passion. Dark hair followed the hand and part of an arm.

Temari dug in gently, scooping around the sides of the head while Naruto backed off to the other side to resume his fierce digging. Sakura helped Temari scoop out the sediment from the body within. A pale forehead was the fruit of their labor and Naruto, Temari noticed was crying and as soon as he started crying, Sakura began to cry as well. Temari scowled faintly. How did these Konoha shinobi survive?

The back of Temari's hand brushed something and she stopped before she began scooping at that in a hurry. A startled, gurgling gasp met her. A face was forming. The outline of a human body was following it quickly due to Naruto's determination to dig her out. A neck, obscured by wet grit, shoulders, and an arm still outstretched to the sky, legs, feet. A human had been under the dirt.

Temari quickly brushed away the remaining dirt and saw white, white eyes staring at her. Sakura shoved Temari out of the way unmindful of the grunt the other girl gave, and with her tremendous strength, shoved her hands beneath the girl's head in the hardened dirt and began to pull up. "Naruto, do you see her hips?" Naruto nodded "Good, don't grab any lower than that. We may strain something and I don't know where she may be injured." Naruto quickly moved his hands beneath the girl's hips, "Okay, now lift!" they did, gently as if she would break, which she may very well have at that point. Gravel and silt filtered off her body and landed in sprinkles. Temari moved back to give the Konoha shinobi room.

Sakura's hands came away red and the medic hissed at the sight of Hinata's throat. Despite being buried beneath rock and gravel, having her throat slit, Hinata was still alive. While the how of it was intriguing and begged an answer, it wasn't of any importance at this moment. Healing the wound was. Her hands went over the girl's neck and the green glow spilled forth, enveloping her injury. Hinata's breath didn't gurgle as much and the wound was closing, for with every breath Sakura heard her take, she heard the wheeze of air escaping through the hole in her throat lessening. At least, Sakura reasoned while she pressed more chakra into it, the blood had clotted earlier.

Hinata coughed, spat out bloodied phlegm and shuddered, eyes rolling in her head. "Temari, keep her awake," Sakura's voice came in strong and demanding. Temari grabbed the Hyuuga girl's hand and pinched the skin between two fingers. She inhaled sharply and gripped Temari's hand. Temari jerked back but returned the grip firmly. The girl held on to her like a frightened child would. But, Temari thought with glum reasoning, anyone could be a frightened child when faced with Akasuna no Sasori.

She eyed the girl skeptically. Sasori was not one to leave his victims alive, save Sakura who had won the battle. Obviously Sasori wasn't in the best condition to fight, but he was still one of the most dangerous ninja out there. Even at his current bar of strength, he could have easily killed her.

Yet she remained alive. Temari kept her grip on the girl while Naruto was crying and holding her other hand, patting her arm and saying how glad he was she was alive and that Sakura was going to patch her right up. Sakura would occasionally brush a stray hair from the girl's sweating forehead and murmur something comforting while she did her best to heal up her throat.

Temari watched it unfold and stared down at the Hyuuga. How had she survived?

Once Sakura had depleted her chakra and the wound was closed up, Temari drew her fan and said that she would fly the Hyuuga back to the medic bay in Suna. Naruto agreed and hefted a weary Sakura in a piggy back.

Temari's thoughts would once in a while be directed at the Hyuuga but not so much. Her lips thinned at the lost prospect of an obtained Akatsuki member. Tsunade, overriding Gaara who had been previously indisposed of, had said that sending in Hinata only would be the best course of action, if only to get him to possibly relax. She'd been attempting to sugarcoat it, Temari thought, but…looking back at the pale Hyuuga she was holding the waist of so she wouldn't take an accidental tumble, perhaps it may have worked. Not completely, and most certainly not the way Tsunade had wanted it to, but it had.

The fan dipped down once Temari spotted the hospital and she slung the arm of the Hyuuga over her neck and closed her fan, sweeping it behind her and she half dragged the girl to the hospital, snapping at a nearby nurse once she entered the hospital to get a medic now. Three nurses came to collect the girl and Temari let her go, and she saw several medics follow though there really was no need. Sakura had finished it up and the wound was closed though Temari had felt that the girl's chakra was completely exhausted so there was of course that lesser but still quite dangerous risk.

She saw Naruto and Sakura enter the building and immediately Naruto harassed one of the nurses into telling him where his friend was. Temari walked over to them and cleared her throat. Naruto's attention diverted, the nurse skittered away and Sakura, from his back looked up at Temari. "You should probably send word to your Hokage; I'm going to tell Gaara that Sasori has escaped and that there are deceased to collect." She turned on her heel and was about to leave before she paused and said, "You may want to ask the Hyuuga how she managed to get out alive before you write the letter to your Hokage though; so she won't have to be interrogated immediately upon arrival."

Temari left without another word, intent on seeing her brother about the predicament they'd been landed in.

Sakura huffed and sighed, rubbing one eye with a clenched fist. "Let's wait in the lobby Naruto. They definitely won't let us in right now. Her chakra was dangerously low and she may have other injuries I wasn't able to treat."

Naruto let her down and she sat herself in a chair with aplomb. Naruto took a seat next to her and scrunched his brows in thought. "How did Hinata survive having her throat cut?" it was partially rhetorical and also a true question directed at his friend.

Sakura leaned on her palm, thinking. "Her chakra was extremely depleted but…to have been able to have survived a throat slitting." Sakura pursed her lips in concentration. She recalled the cut across the pale skin, "The slash wasn't very deep, it wasn't quite what I'd consider shallow but it wasn't deep enough for her to just choke on her blood immediately." That in and of itself was bizarre – if Sakura hadn't known who was responsible for all of it, she would have mistook it for an elementary killing.

She closed her eyes and tried to think of a suitable scenario to fit.

"She may have not had any chance to fight Sasori at all." Her lip curled in a sneer at the thought of the redheaded madman. "He may have slit her throat in haste; maybe he thought he was running short on time? So…having chakra enough left over, Hinata used it to at least clog the blood so she wouldn't bleed out." Sakura rolled her head on her shoulders, trying in vain to relax.

"Underground…there's no air. The earth is too compacted to allow air to breathe in, so, in theory if Hinata had a good, precise hold on her chakra, she might have been able to channel a direct airway from her lungs straight to the outside. In theory, maybe," Sakura sighed and pinched between her eyes. "By doing that though – Sasori must not have been gone long if she were able to keep it up. It wouldn't have taken a lot of chakra, but the control over the airway would have been tedious to keep." Sakura tilted her head in thought, thinking aloud while Naruto listened with his ears and not his mouth, for once. "She may have held her breath on and off in order to allow her chakra to recover."

Naruto was silent and Sakura looked over at him inquisitively. "Why did he bury her?" his voice was soft and quiet, perhaps even disturbed.

Sakura sat back and stared at the empty seats across of her. She had no answer to that question, no matter how hard she thought about it. "I don't know."

The sight of seeing a friend with a slit throat and being buried deep enough where the native scavengers wouldn't dig was a paradox.

Sakura leaned on her fist but still couldn't come up with a suitable answer for Naruto.

The sky outside was black with the dark of night and the sands rose and fell with high winds.