Sakura slept soundly with a tree against her back, a small frown on her face. Kankuro stared at her for a moment. She must have been really worried about her village…
The sand shinobi traced patterns in the dirt with a stick as he thought about their next possible moves. Usually he was with a group that had a totally different set of skills. In annoyance he started to plan, though he paused again to look at Sakura. What exactly could she do, anyway? He'd never asked.
Absently he sighed. What if Gaara was in danger? He'd never forgive himself if his little brother was somehow injured…And why did everyone have to go and kidnap him?
Kankuro could still easily remember the time when everyone tried to kill Gaara. They hated him. Feared him. Maybe if he'd been a better brother, it would have all gotten better sooner.
With a low growl he threw the stick. This always happened when he got bored! Wondering if he could have somehow fixed everything. If maybe he was really a terrible person. That he deserved what his father did to him.
No. No one deserved that.
Sakura stirred, blinking one eye open lazily. Slowly she sat up.
"Is it morning?" she asked quietly.
"Yeah," Kankuro tried to reply politely but there was an edge to his voice.
"…Is something wrong…?"
"No. Come on, we should get moving."
Sakura watched him as he stood up quickly and stalked off into the bushes.
"…O…kay…" she mumbled, a bit confused. Had she done something wrong? Maybe he just wasn't an early bird…or cat…She giggled at the thought.
It didn't take her long to get ready and soon she was following him again. She couldn't help but wonder what had made him so upset. Gaara had been kidnapped, but still…it wasn't any reason to act like she wasn't there. She stared at his back as he jumped from tree branch to tree branch.
Sakura suddenly came to a jolting stop, throwing herself backwards as kunai flew through the air where her head had just been. She grabbed onto the sturdy branch and swung down onto the ground. The pink haired ninja rolled into the cover of the bushes to avoid another barrage of kunai, peering out from the leaves in search of the attacker. 'Kankuro, you better be alright…' she thought as she scanned the area.
The puppeteer in question had ducked behind a tree, crouched down with a kunai at the ready. He slowly pulled free one of his summoning scrolls.
"You two hide like cowards…typical for sand ninja…but I thought leaf ninja were more courageous?" taunted a female voice. Sakura couldn't tell where it was coming from. "But either way…it doesn't matter."
Kankuro summoned Crow silently, narrowing his eyes. The kunai thrown earlier had come from multiple directions…were there more ninja then the presently speaking one? He disguised his puppet as himself and waited.
Sakura pulled out her own kunai, focusing chakra into one fist as she took a deep breath. She didn't know how many enemy ninja there were. A bead of sweat slipped down her forehead and she wiped it away quietly. Her eyes widened when Sasuke appeared in front of her.
"S-Sasuke?!" she exclaimed quietly.
"What are you even doing?" he asked with disgust in his voice.
"…What do you mean?"
"It's obvious. They only sent you away from the village because you're a nuisance. Useless."
"No…you're wrong…" she shook her head. "This isn't real! It's Genjutsu!" she stated, closing her eyes and putting her hands over her ears.
"No one likes you. They just want you to go off somewhere and die. Poor Kankuro, having to put up with someone like you…" he continued, red eyes gleaming.
'Why won't it go away?! Make it stop!' Sakura mentally screamed.
"He's probably just waiting for a chance to get rid of you like the leaf village did."
"No! You're wrong! Get out of my head!"
"Sakura…why are you so useless?" a voice that sounded like Naruto asked.
"You can't do anything. You couldn't even stop Sasuke when he wanted to leave the village. It's all you're fault that he's gone," Naruto continued.
Sakura didn't want to look. It had to be an illusion…it wasn't reality. If that was true though, why couldn't she dispel it? Why wouldn't it go away?
And the worst part…
They were right.
Kankuro started at the loud scream, almost losing his balance on the small tree branch he was precariously perched on. He cursed under his breath. They'd gotten to Sakura somehow…without her even trying to fight back. Genjutsu? He groaned quietly, peering around the tree trunk. Of all the things…why did it have to be his worst area of skills? Heck, he couldn't eve remember how to dispel a Genjutsu on another person.
"Looking for me?"
He instantly threw the kunai in his hand at the long haired woman. She dodged to the side and drew a long, thin blade from its sheath on her back, slicing at his neck. She didn't seem surprised when her sword met wood and Crow used its own blades to try and slice her open.
Kankuro dropped down to the ground, glancing up at the enemy ninja. He skillfully maneuvered his puppet to fend her off while he hid in the undergrowth. She'd managed to sneak up on him without him even noticing…
"To slow!" she cackled, pointing her blade down and jumping into the bushes. Kankuro rolled to the side and narrowly avoiding being stabbed in the back.
"Hmm…" she seemed to look him over as he jumped away. "Not bad…you don't even seem to be worried about your companion," she jeered, throwing three senbon after him.
The puppeteer easily deflected them with a kunai.
"Maybe you really do want to get rid of her…she is useless, isn't she?" the woman continued.
'You're wrong…' Kankuro thought, landing on another branch.
He swung forward when she appeared behind him, forcing him off the branch and back onto the ground. The sand ninja's attention was caught again when he heard Sakura scream.
"You should pay more attention."
He fought back a shocked yelp of pain as he skidded backwards, feeling the blood drip down his cheek from the cut he had received. The only thing that had saved him was his uneven footing…if he hadn't tripped…
Kankuro flipped backwards and brought Crow in front of him to block a stab from the enemy woman. She pushed the puppet aside and sprung towards him with a malicious grin. The puppeteer gave her a smile of his own as Crow came up behind her, stabbing her between the shoulder blades.
She gave a small gasp and then fell to the ground. Kankuro moved Crow out of the way just before the woman hit the ground.
"Sakura!" he called, hoping she would respond.
The pink haired girl didn't answer.
He quickly searched the area, catching a glimpse of red deep in the bushes.
The puppeteer pushed his way through the leaves, crouching down next to her huddled form. She was shaking.
"…Sakura?" he asked quietly.
"I'm nothing…useless…" she replied brokenly. Emptily.
Kankuro wasn't sure what to do. Slowly he wrapped his arms around her smaller body, calling her name.
She had to snap out of it.
Sakura knew tears were running down her face, but somehow she couldn't feel it. She couldn't feel anything.
After all, no one needed her. They hated her. Despised her. She was…useless. A burden on the ones she wanted to help. A nuisance.
She opened her eyes slowly, wondering who would call her name. Someone was holding her. Her heart started to race as she tried to pull out of her unaware state.
But…why would someone call out to her? She was useless…
Was there someone who needed her…? She felt the arms of the person tighten around her.
And she did.
"…Kankuro?" she murmured, blinked at the bright sunlight.
He quickly let go of her and she fell back against a tree painfully with a yelp. "What the heck?!"
The puppeteer hid his face by turning away. "Sheesh, I thought you were dead or something…" he muttered.
"Were you…holding me?" Sakura asked, a blush creeping onto her face.
"No! I was trying to wake you up!" he defended.
"How is that going to help?!"
"I-" he stopped, his vision blurring.
"Crap," he said, falling over onto the ground.
"Hey! What's wrong?"
Sakura crawled unsteadily over to his side, shaking his shoulder. "Kankuro! Darn it!" she smashed the ground with her fist, shaking him again.
The leaf ninja rolled him over so she could see his face, noticing the deep but on his face.
She felt his forehead, wincing at how hot it was. He'd fought off that ninja by himself while she was caught in that Genjutsu…
"Argh! How could I be so stupid?!" she asked the trees around her, tears forming in her eyes. She quickly wiped them away, determination on her face. "I saved him from poison before…I can do it again."
My gosh, it took me forever to write a new chapter for this O_o Sorry about that. To make up for it this chapter is longer then most of the others.
I also rewrote all of the chapters so you might want to go back and reread them. I can't remember if I added anything new but I'm pretty sure I did.
Thanks goes out to MissMet9641, nmshy, Fairy of Anime, jayanx, and Shubaltz Crazist for reviewing :)