"I got them!" Naruto shouted at the moment his kage bunshin popped away in few hundered meters distance of forest "they're in our range. We'll meet them, believe it!" he clenched his fists and kicked off the tree branch harder.
Sakura followed Naruto's movements, as well as Kiba's, Hinata's, Shino's and Kakashi's. Her plan was simple: get Sasuke's team away from Naruto's and, if possible, talk to Sasuke alone. Problems were two: slipping away from Naruto unnoticed or with good reason and trust the chakra-sensing person on Sasuke's team to sneak her out and follow her. The last one could lead to failure. But I can't allow that. Two and a half years of training just cannot go off to nothing. If you're not coming home with me or Naruto, then I'm coming with you, even if it means going to the end of the world. Sakura's eyes became fierce when she thought like that. She and Naruto had been pursuing Sasuke for quite a while now, since Naruto came back to Konoha and yet, only one time they saw him and it ended up again in Sasuke trying to kill Naruto. Then, they decided to round up a new squad and pursue Sasuke AND Akatsuki: the dangeous oganization, whose aims are to gather Bijuu and use them for other, darker purposes. More to it, Itachi, Sasuke's older brother, who slaughtered the entire Uchiha clan, was in the organization, which was even more convenient: in order to kill Itachi, Naruto and Sakura were forced to hunt down and kill Akatsuki. But that's a secondary goal for now.
"We're close!" Kakashi said, prepaing his Sharingan for battle. Slowly, Sakura slowed down her pace and fell behind the squad. Hinata seemed to be the only one who noticed it and slowed down too.
"Is there something wrong, Sakura-chan?" she asked in her silent voice. Sakura shook her head.
"No, Hinata-chan. Go on ahead, I'll catch up with you" the pink-haired kunoichi smiled to her.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure. I just have to check something. No need for others to worry or know, all right?" Hinata nodded and too smiled, kicking off the branch and flying off ahead. Sakura looked at Naruto's back for a while. Forgive me, Naruto. I know how much Sasuke means to you as a brother, but…there's no prove that you mean to Sasuke as much. If you get killed, I will never forgive myself anyway. Sakura turned immediately left and disappeared among leaves.
"One of them separated" the red-haired kunoichi suddenly said "it's moving west now"
"Who is it, Karin?" the blue-haired shinobi asked, showing his sharp pointy teeth.
"I don't know, but…this person has two types of chakra and a strong one too. Who could that be?" she looked at the black-haired shinobi in front of her. His expressionless face said nothing, but his eyes turned immediate red: Sharingan. Sasuke Uchiha was thinking back…back on the time he first saw Naruto and Sakura after two and half years. And he recognized the sense Karin just discribed to him: Sakura Haruno. He felt the same when she was there, the two types of chakra. Later, Kabuto told him that Sakura has become a medical ninja. So that's how it is. I see.
"Juugo, Suigetsu, Karin" he said with his cold usual voice "you three go on ahead and hold off the main group as long as possible. When you see the fireball in the distance, retreat with all the covering you have. Got it?"
"Roger" Suigetsu said, but asked anyway "where are you going, Sasuke-kun?"
"Somebody wants to see me" he said simply.
"Let me guess" he chuckled shrewdely "girlfriend?"
"What was that?!!" Karin shouted.
"Oh boy" Juugo sighed.
"What? I was just asking"
"Why you little son of a…" Karin was about to strike fist into Suigetsu's face, but a mere voice of Sasuke stoped her.
"Enough" he said "this is no bussiness of yours. Continue with the plan and save your chakra for the battle. Those ain't simple brats you'll be dealing with" and with those words he flew the other direction. Suigetsu sighed.
"No doubt about it. It's an old girlfriend. Guess you're just unlucky, Karin"
"Come here you little sone of a bitch, I'll beat the shit out of you!" Karin shouted by chasing Suigetsu ahead. Juugo sighed again.
"Those two are so annoying"
Sasuke was flying through the forest to the direction Karin gave to him. His memories, usually floating around his brother and family, or his last fight with Naruto, now suddenly twisted around, back to the night he said goodbye to Sakura. She asked him to take her with him, but he didn't. He couldn't. She should've understood it back then. But what about now? A sudden shake of earth and trees going down brought Sasuke back from his memories and made him land to the ground, which now was cracked. Looked around with his Sharingan, seeking for the source of this power.
"I know you're here, Sakura" he said loudly.
"Observant as usual" a familiar feminine voice pierced the air and a girl with pink hair and jade green eyes stepped from behind the tree.
The two stood like that for a while, looking at each other's eyes and trying to figure out what thoughts were behind them. Since neither succeeded, Sasuke asked with his cold emotionless voice:
"I figured you might want to see me. Why?" he asked. Sakura crossed arms on her chest and leaned against the tree, turning her head to the direction she knew Naruto was in.
"I don't know" she said with dark voice "I suppose, if you were to go along with your team, you'll end up fighting with Naruto. I'm sick of watching you two fight like that"
"So, instead, you've choosen to lure me away from him" Sasuke's lips formed a little smile "so, are we going to talk about Naruto now?"
"Shouldn't we? He's the one who considers you his brother. The pity thing is I cannot say the same about you, Sasuke-kun" Sakura merely turned her eyes to him when she said it. The kunoichi felt that these words came out of her with anger – not the way she planned. Unfortunately, Sasuke noticed it.
"You're angry at my about it then" he simply said, his lips yet again forming a small smile "still, I can't help but wonder" with this word he appeared right in front of Sakura, his arm rammed into tree trunk a little over her head and his eyes fixed onto hers "who're you considering me as?"
This sudden closeness of Sasuke made Sakura feel a little uncomfortable. But years spent with Tsunade and her training methods thought Sakura to hide her emotions. And the more time she spent in pursuing this young man, standind so close to her now, the lesser emotions she felt rebeling inside. The only thing she worried about now was that those emotions were coming back: slowly, but surely.
"Why are you so interested? You didn't show this much interest the last time we met" this made Sasuke chuckle a little bit.
"You changed" he stated "you're not the same Sakura I knew before"
"This was expected after all, right?" the kunoichi looked straight into Sasuke's Sharingan and suddenly saw it disappear: only plain black eyes were left and these were the ones Sakura liked the most.
"Right" he said and retreated from her. The shinobi turned away, but didn't just kick off the ground. Again, he was thinking. Sakura looked at his back, dressed in whites and blacks, and remembered two and half years ago, when they stood like this as well.
"Are you going to walk away now?" she asked silently. Sasuke didn't answer for a while.
"Are you going to ask me to take you with me now?" he asked as well. This made Sakura to let out gasp. She didn't expect him to ask this question she had in her mind for quite a while now. Guess he's still the same: always one step ahead of everyone.
"If I did, would your answer be the same?" she asked. Sasuke again was moved into a slight smile.
"I heard you've become a fine medical ninja" he said suddenly "a genjutsu user too" the Uchiha lifted his head a bit and watched the cloud slowly pass by in the blue sky "the Hebi, my team, could surely have some use of you" Sakura's eyes widened.
"You're allowing me to…"
"This time" Sasuke interrupted her "I'm asking you to come with me" Sakura gasped. She expected everything, but this. The first thought about this situation: genjutsu. But no, the kunoichi couldn't feel any presence of the sort. Bunshin to distract her? No. From what anyway?
"Unless you don't want to go anymore" Sasuke turned his head and his black eye fixed on Sakura's.
"I still want to go" she said "I'll go"
"Good" the shinobi said, coldly as usual "then let's go. We need to pick up the rest of Hebi. Naruto and the others might be picking on them"
Naruto and his squad were still hopping from tree to tree, hurrying ahead.
"Shit!" Naruto cursed "where are they?! Kiba?"
"They're close, but…"
"Sasuke's no longer there" he said, looking to Akamaru "then again…"
"Sakura's missing too" Hinata said "she just fell behind for a while"
"What?! Sakura-chan?" Naruto suddenly stopped, making the rest do the same "what did those creeps do to her?"
"My oh my, what a lack of manners, calling us like that" an unfamiliar voice flew through the air. The group turned around and saw three people standing in front of them. Suigetsu smiled, showing his sharp teeth "you must be Uzumaki Naruto"
"Where's Sakura?!!" the blonde boy shouted, his eyes turning red. Kakashi saw this change.
"Calm down, Naruto" he warned.
"That's right" Suigetsu said shrewdely "nothing bad will happen to your precious Sakura. She's in good hands"
"Why you!" Naruto wanted to attack, but a sudden invisible punch touched his chest and he was puched away, only not falling down because Shino caught him with his bugs.
"What an attitude, geez" Karin sighed "he reminds me of you, Suigetsu" she eyed her comrade with angry look.
"Don't burn my lungs, Karin" Suigetsu warned "besides, we have a work to do" he looked down to the group and eyed each and every one of them. Sasuke-kun was right, these are no brats. Everyone knows Hatake Kakashi and his copy abilities. One must argue whose Sharingan is stronger: Sasuke-kun's or his. There's this bug-using guy, he could be a trouble too and that guy with the dog, or wolf, or whatever that is…he seems to be brute strenght user. And that girl over there…her eyes are different from the usual ones. She must be realy something too. Oh well, this is going to be sweatty.
"Well, guys, why don't we get this party started. Sasuke-kun tends to be a little crancky if plan is not in motion on time.
"You're quite right about that, Suigetsu" the voice of Sasuke flew through the air behind Suigetsu's back. The shinobi gulped and turned around with best appologising fake smile he could manage.
"Sorry, Sasuke-kun. Didn't see you there"
"Enough" the Uchiha said "let's move outta here"
"Wait!" Naruto shouted "you think we will just let you all go like that? Well, no chance! And where's Sakura?!!" Sasuke looked down to Naruto without emotions.
"Your eyes are so weak" he said "look around sometimes"
"Naruto, move!" Kiba shouted, but it was too late: a huge bang exploded and the ground under them cracked open, causing everyone to loose their balance. Sasuke used the commotion and landed in the middle of the group. He used his elemental recompotion and and entire squad was wrapped with strong bodies of snakes.
"Tha-that explosion" Kakashi stuttered, feeling out of breath "could that be…" Sasuke drew his former sensei closer.
"You should know by now" he said silently, so only Kakashi would hear "she chooses the life she sees fit for her"
"What did you tell her?" Kakashi demanded.
"Nothing of the sort" Sasuke answered simply "you shouldn't worry, Kakashi-sensei. She's in good hands after all" the dust cleared a little bit and Kakashi couold see his former student, standing in the origin of the cracked land. The girl had cold and determined look in her eyes. The only times Kakashi would see these eyes were when Sakura knew that she's doing suicide. No, now it's different. At those times she wasn't sure of what she was doing. Now she is. Damn! Why? Why her too?
"S-s-sakura-chan" Naruto stuttered, too feeling like all the air from his lungs has disappeared "what…are you doing?" the girl of his dreams turned her now cold and unfamiliar eyes to Naruto and the boy saw something he has only seen few times: cold, determination and harshness. Sakura closed those terrifying eyes for some time, then opened them again and suddnely took off the head band, with the leaf symbol on it. She then took tone kunai and stroked it hardly through the metal: there was now a notch left…a usual notch shinobi wear, when they leave their villages.
"Sakura-chan" Naruto's eyes followed her every move when she put the band back to her head and tied it.
"Now" she said coldly "I can only hope you will find in your heart to forgive me, Naruto" she looked at him and he looked back at her…and the black gap between them seemed to appear out of nowhere, taking them appart. Naruto turned his head to Sasuke, eyes turning red.
"You" he said with anger "what did you do?" Sasuke only stared back at him and said nothing, but released the squad. Naruto wanted to attack Sasuke, but Juugo jumped between them, with his fist pushing Naruto back. He wanted to continue, but Kakashi shouted:
"No, Naruto! Don't!" he looked at Sasuke and then at Sakura and back at Sasuke "it's not worth it anymore. They're out of reach now" the Uchiha chuckled slightly.
"Nice to know that there's someone who understands it" he said "let's go, Juugo. We still have things to do" and they both jumped up to the tree, where Suigetsu and Karin were waiting. Sakura wanted to follow, but Naruto stepped in her way.
"You're not going with him!" he shouted at her "I'm not letting you go away from me as well! Not if I can help it!" Sakura glared at him for a moment.
"Step out of the way" she said "don't provoke me, Naruto"
"You're not going, Sakura-chan" the girl inhaled deeply and with all the sudden launched her fist, full of chakra into Naruto's belly. The boy spat out blood over her shoulder. At that moment, she whispered to his ear:
"Please, forgive me, Naruto. But I cannot go alongside with you anymore. For this is the only way to bring Sasuke-kun back" and with these words, Naruto flew away from her fist and hit the tree. Sakura jumped up to join her new team and they all kicked off the tree branch.
Naruto was on the brink of loosing concesness. His last thought was the image Sakura and Sasuke, consumed by darkness…