(A/N) Since one of the reviewers requested it, I decided to put a basic summary of what's happening in the story atm, just in case some of you are lost thanks to my letting it fail for months and then letting it fail again for more months O_o…
Team Hawk joined forces with Akatsuki, and are now helping them retrieve the final two Jinchuuriki (i.e. same as the Manga) but with one difference. Sakura's with them. Sakura's still grieving Itachi, who was similar to a mentor for her while she was in Akatsuki and can't help but blame Sasuke for his death, causing friction between the two. When Sasuke's life is put on the line however, Sakura knows that Itachi died for him, and therefore puts her own life on the line to save his. Thanks to this, Sasuke instructs Juugo and Karin to save her life, as a thank you for saving his. Sakura is now healed thanks to Juugo and Karin and is rejoining the fight against Kirabi. With a new team ethic, I guess XD
Hope this helped! Enjoy this epic long chapter, hope you'll forgive me for the wait~!
There was a loud crack signalling the break of air pressure as both Sasuke and Suigetsu managed to strike the Chakra-fuelled Jinchuuriki. Kirabi was thrown away from them both, moments later making a deafening rumble similar to that of thunder as he struck the mountainside.
"We don't have much time… three more tails and we'll be fighting the Hachibi." Sasuke said quietly.
"Man… what a pain…" Suigetsu groaned, stretching.
"You don't have to be here, you know."
"And miss a battle like this? Not in…!" Suigetsu stopped and both he and Sasuke turned to look at the girl standing behind them.
She moved further forwards, standing between them.
"That was a quick recovery." Suigetsu said, his eyebrow twitching again, while Sasuke remained silent, his expression unreadable, a crease forming between his brows as his Sharingan scanned her.
Sasuke looked around, eyes now searching the area around Kirabi.
"You might want to cover your ears." Sakura said, now moving her hands up to cover her own. "I've got a feeling this attack is going to be loud."
Finally, Sasuke found what he was looking for, and very uncharacteristically, his jaw fell open to form a small 'o'.
The real Sakura was standing at the top of the rockface, and even from where he was standing, Sasuke could see the flare of Chakra she was building in her fist.
His eyes widened further when he realised what she was about to do.
She plunged her fist down into the mountain. Fissures exploded in the rockface around her and moments later, almost in slow motion, house-sized rocks began to fall downwards onto the Hachibi, and continued to roll towards them.
"Oh sh-!" Suigetsu gasped as both he and Sasuke used their Chakra to leap backwards as Sakura's Clone poofed out of existence.
The ground beneath them shook when each house-sized rock struck it, and Team Hawk were pretty much convinced that there was no way in hell Kirabi could have survived that. Even if he was a Chakra beast container, there was no way it could heal a crushed body.
After the rumble of rocks finally died down, Sakura, who had balanced herself with her Chakra on top, jumped down, and flipped off the pile, and ran towards them.
Moments later, she jumped again just as the rocks exploded outwards, revealing the Hachibi in all it's glory.
She landed on the ground lightly enough, but her Chakra, which she had kept fixated on her feet, had now released and caused cracks in the ground.
She was also regretting stopping there in the first place, because now she was directly in the Eight-Tails' eyeline. Sure, she'd twisted in mid-air and landed without falling flat on her face, but the point still stood that there was now a giant behemoth of a Chakra Beast in front of her, eyes fixed, yes, fixed, on her, with an aura palpable enough to make even Zetsu wet himself, and she'd made no attempt whatsoever to launch a sneak attack or hide after she'd quite literally dropped a mountain of rocks on it.
Her eyes narrowed. Oh well. Old fashioned pummel it until it bleeds way? She eyed each side of it, wondering where to begin. Okay… I don't think the old fashioned way will work. She thought. Come on, Sakura. Think.
Mountain didn't work. Any other jutsu probably won't work… I'm running out of Chakra.
She looked sideways at Sasuke, Suigetsu, Juugo and Karin, all of whom looked exhausted in one way or another. Sasuke, still weakened from the injury that Karin healed, Suigetsu… that bloody sword, Juugo… well, Juugo was minature, and Karin was exhausted after her creepy definitely-not-erotic-AT-ALL medical jutsu.
Whatever it was about what she saw, whether she'd just snapped, or whether some instinct was driving her to it… Inner Sakura took control of her voice.
"Since when did a bull have eight tails?" She asked out loud, twisting abruptly to stare at the Hachibi, surprising all of them.
Karin, Suigetsu, Juugo and even Sasuke all turned to look at her, eyes wide and mouths agape.
But Inner Sakura was far from finished.
"To be honest I prefer the one tail, and the fact that they're a lot smaller than you. Do you do that charge thing or do you just blast people with your Chakra? Why take on the form of a bull if you don't charge? Seriously?"
Whatever sanity remained found its way into her head, and wrestled with the babble. MOUTH. STOP. MOVING.
The Hachibi appeared to be utterly lost for words, staring at her. Team Hawk were in various stages of utter disbelief, thoughts ranging from 'I'm seriously going to kill you' to 'what the hell are you doing' and even an 'oh crap she's lost it'.
The wayward brain of Sakura had now taken to muttering to itself, having given up the fight against Inner Sakura. I'm so dead. I'm gone.
"Do you stomp? Do you run if you see red? Oh look, I'm wearing red, so are they, haha! RED!"
Moments later, Inner Sakura's very much out loud questioning worked its vile way, and Sakura repressed a high-pitched squeak as the Hachibi proved it could in fact, charge.
"Shiiiit!" She gasped, and too scared to move, purely on instinct, she threw her right hand out in front of her. What happened next was definitely not what she'd expected.
The Hachibi… was thrown away from her like it weighed less than a rag doll.
She watched it fly away from her as if in slow motion, her eyes widening as she saw the stream of Chakra blasting out from her hand.
The large explosion as it reached the other end of the gorge was deafening, rumbling under their feet.
She looked back at Team Hawk, who were once again staring, gobsmacked, but now in the wake of the repelled Hachibi.
"H… How the hell?!" Karin asked, voicing all their thoughts.
Sakura looked back at them, then looked at her already burnt hand, which was convulsing painfully from the Chakra pressure she'd unwittingly forced upon it. After a few moments, she remembered witnessing something similar occur the last time she'd seen Pein.
She watched as Suigetsu launched across the table, ready to carve Kisame's head in two, when suddenly he seemed to lose control of it, and Pein was holding his hand up.
Sakura's eyes widened. With them she had seen the minimal amount of Chakra that Pein had used to repel the sword, similar to a shift in magnetic force, causing the sword to refuse to go any further.
She blinked and held her twitching, damaged hand against her chest, trying, in vain, to stop it cramping.
Her eyes focused on the floor and she found a rock, she held out her left hand this time to see if she could repel it, but nothing happened.
How the hell…? She thought.
"Looks like that was instinct…" She muttered out loud, "We can't rely on it."
She looked sideways at Sasuke, whose Sharingan eyes were fixed on hers. He moved forwards and moved his hand out. Her eyes widened in shock. Can he…?
Her eyes shifted quickly to the rock, to see if he had in fact copied it.
Again, nothing happened.
He cocked an eyebrow, slight irritation passing through his features.
Sakura suddenly found herself having to suppress a cocky smirk. Rin'negan 1, Mangekyou Sharingan 0. She shook herself out of it and her eyes focused on the cloud of debris where the Hachibi was.
"Looks like I have no choice…" Sasuke murmured, "We can't go on like this for much longer…"
She blinked at him, "You're not going to try the Tsukuyomi again-?"
"No. I'm not." He paused suddenly though as the debris shifted, spinning away from the Hachibi, which was now standing up, a gigantic ball of Chakra forming just in front of its mouth.
"Oh no." Sakura whispered, recognising it from when she had fought Naruto.
"Looks like it's my turn to put my life on the line." Suigetsu muttered abruptly, and his form literally vanished into a wave, moving forwards to the Hachibi at a fearsome pace.
Sakura's eyes widened, "What the hell are you doing?! If that thing gets you, you'll be obliterated!" He didn't answer, already out of earshot, and she muttered, "Shit." Then she too rushed forwards.
She didn't honestly know what she was going to do when she got there, or why she felt a sudden need to defend Suigetsu of all people.
Moments later she realised she wasn't the only one who had followed after Suigetsu. Her eyes widened briefly as she saw Sasuke run up beside her.
"What are you-?"
"I'm taking your word for it." He said simply, "Suigetsu is a valuable asset to my team. Besides… I owe him one for not letting him attack Kisame."
She nodded, then focused on the Hachibi.
She herself didn't owe Suigetsu one. She didn't like to think that she owed any of them anything, although she knew Karin and Juugo had saved her from near death. Whatever it was… she didn't like the idea of seeing any of Sasuke's team die in front of her.
Double shit. She thought as she considered this. I got taken in, again.
"Suigetsu! MOVE!" Sasuke shouted suddenly, but he didn't answer. The wave now swirling around the Hachibi in a vain attempt to drown it.
As expected, the wave exploded outwards, as the Hachibi used its tails to knock it away from it.
The wave fell backwards and shrunk, leaving an unconscious, partially solid Suigetsu in its place.
"That idiot!" Karin shouted behind them, moments before Sasuke used the other attack in his arsenal.
Within seconds the Hachibi was being smothered by a blaze of shocking, pitch black flames. In the same instant, distracting herself from the horrific sight, Sakura rushed forwards to get Suigetsu out of the way, making sure not to break into Sasuke's eyeline. She manoeuvred her hands under him, struggling to keep hold of him in his partially liquid state.
She found herself completely unable to pull him away when the Hachibi started screeching in agony. It was the screech of many men burning at the stake, nothing more than a plea for survival, a plea for mercy from the agony.
A small part of her brain was trying, in vain, to tell her that if this was the other way round and she was burning to death, neither the Hachibi nor it's Jinchuuriki would care less. The majority however was being strangled by her medic– her human instinct to make the pain stop.
"Sakura! Get out of there!"
She blinked, hearing the voices of the members of Team Hawk, and for that brief instant her own instinct for survival got her moving, dragging Suigetsu along with her. All the while, the shrieking continued.
Once out of danger, she placed Suigetsu on the floor, her eyes finding the blaze again as if held there by glue. Her heart clenched as she watched the horrific sight.
"Ugh!" She gasped, clutching her head as a raging headache overcame her.
I'm gonna get Sasuke back for you, dattebayo! Just watch me!
That voice… She thought, But why…?
Her eyes found the Hachibi once more, and her eyes burned as she realised why.
Those bastards want to kill me, Sakura!
She started to tremble, her knees buckling, her eyes still on the horrific sight as both it and her memories started to choke her.
The mammoth shrieks were finally replaced by a sound desperately, heartwrenchingly human.
Forgive me… Naruto… forgive me…
She forced herself to remain standing, forced herself to watch. She had to see this, she had to feel what she was doing. Naruto's voice was the lifeline to her reason. It allowed her to question just what she was doing, just why she was helping the Akatsuki. 'Headache' be damned.
Yotsuki Kirabi was being burned to death for the simple reason his village saw fit to turn him into a Jinchuuriki. He was not at fault, he was not guilty, and he definitely didn't deserve it.
He had a family. A clan. Sakura thought. We stole him from them.
The scent of burning flesh was what struck her senses next, and even as she thought her head was going to implode from the pain, she deliberately inhaled it.
None of them deserved this.
She looked over at Sasuke, whose onyx eyes were glazed, his face covered in bloody tears. She wondered if that same, dead expression was mirrored on her own face. She looked at Karin and Juugo, both of whom were avoiding looking at each other. They'd seen death before, and it struck her that they both may have been used to graphic deaths after being under Orochimaru.
Sakura bowed her head, remembering the other person she'd killed. Orochimaru, broken, demented, half-insane… she caused him to explode from the inside out. Watching the flesh fly back then was nothing in comparison to this… this endless, desperate screaming…
Finally. It stopped. The screams were replaced by a choked death rattle, and the only sound that was left was that of the ever-burning Amaterasu.
"What… have we…?" Karin choked suddenly, "What have we done?"
Sakura realised what she meant by that the second she said it. They had killed a bijuu, and it's Jinchuuriki. They'd betrayed Akatsuki. Betrayed their villages. No matter where they went now, they were dead men walking.
"We did what we had to." Sasuke said, his tone dead, "Self-defence. Time to go."
Sakura silently agreed, forcing herself to stand, moving to take Suigetsu, but a hand reached out and stopped her.
She looked sideways to see Juugo standing there. Their eyes met for the briefest of moments, and in that second, she thought she had truly seen him for the first time. She wondered how his eyes could hold so much guilt, wondered whether it was possible for the emotion itself to be his sight. He didn't want to be free, didn't want to worry about potentially murdering someone because of his ghastly other half, yet there he was. There because then, just maybe, he could be distracted from his remorse.
She bowed her head as he picked up Suigetsu and put him over his shoulder, knowing that this freedom wasn't what he'd had in mind.
"Where are we going?" Karin asked.
"Away." Sasuke answered quietly.
"We can't go back." Sakura said finally, her mouth dry and her tone surprisingly blasé. "They'll kill us."
"Us, not you." Karin muttered,
"Wrong. I am a pawn to them… nothing more." She said flatly, Karin was evidently too exhausted to say anything else, so Sakura changed the subject, "We need to get out of here, quickly. The Kumo nin will be on our tails."
"Right." Sasuke nodded, "Let's go."
Doing the only thing they thought possible at that moment, they fled, leaving the ever-burning Amaterasu flames behind them.
As soon as they escaped Kumogakure country, they slowed down; unable to continue at the same pace they had been, even though they knew this decision would probably mean their death.
Stumbling along in silence, each of them contemplating just what went so wrong, what led them to these paths.
Sasuke, stubborn as ever, knew he wouldn't have chosen any other route. He inwardly contemplated what Itachi would be thinking if he saw him now, though no answers came to mind. Itachi had failed in his quest to make Sasuke the hero of Konoha. Sasuke had both succeeded and failed in his quest to avenge his Clan, and now he was going to fail in his quest to avenge his brother. But for the first time since he had set out on his path of Revenge, he couldn't seem to care. If he was going to die, he would be with them all once more.
Karin was going to die by the side of the man she loved, although she'd always wanted more, she decided it wasn't too bad, at least no other woman could have him that way.
Juugo who had searched only for redemption, was going to be released from his endless quest by dying. He'd had a taste of freedom at Sasuke's side, and he would be forever grateful to him for that, just as he was grateful to Kimimaro. He also decided death wouldn't be too bad.
Sakura, on the other hand… Sakura's thoughts were only of Konoha, of her brother, of her dead mother. When she contemplated death, she thought of Itachi. When she thought of Itachi, she thought of his willing sacrifice to save Sasuke, he died for his brother. If she died now, if Sasuke died now, would his sacrifice be in vain? If she was going to die, she was going to fight until her last breath to at least make sure Sasuke lived longer than she did.
She stopped walking abruptly as she felt a Chakra she recognised, a Chakra she hadn't felt for weeks, coming straight towards them.
All of them stared in utter disbelief and pain as they saw the person blocking their path. Juugo and Karin were suffering the effects of Chakra depletion, Sakura and Sasuke were recovering from their injuries and Chakra depletion, and Suigetsu was still unconscious.
Sakura's eyes darkened.
"Deidara." She greeted, "What are you doing here?"
His dark-rimmed eyes focused on her, but he said nothing, his blonde hair was blowing in his face, but his eyes never left hers. He continued to walk towards them, whilst removing the shirt he was wearing.
"Deidara…" She started; she didn't like the look in his eyes. The last time she'd seen that look was when she'd blown Orochimaru to bits.
"I've got a score to settle, yeah." His eyes flicked to Sasuke, "The fact you survived my Masterpiece is an embarrassment to my Art, yeah."
Sakura closed her eyes. This is it. "So… you're going to have a retry… and kill us."
Sasuke's teeth gritted, his wide eyes flicking between onyx and Sharingan, staring at Deidara.
"The Clone wasn't enough… nowhere near enough, yeah… that explosion was… weak…"
Sakura looked sideways at Sasuke, who was struggling to use his Sharingan, but his Chakra was far too depleted for it to work well enough…
Karin and Juugo looked exhausted, Suigetsu was as useful as a bag of rocks…
They were sitting ducks.
"What happened to you?" Sakura asked.
"Isn't it obvious? I left Akatsuki." He replied, his eyes rooted on Sasuke. "I felt free… for the first time in a long while I felt free, yeah. An artist to do whatever I wanted."
Sakura's teeth gritted, "Then why?"
"At least… that's what I thought." His eyes suddenly left Sasuke and focused on Sakura instead. "But your brother did something."
She blinked, not expecting this.
"He used some sort of jutsu on me and now… now I'm anything but free, yeah." Deidara said, wincing, his fingers going to his head, the tongue in his hand twitching with the pain.
Sakura bowed her head, suddenly finding a brief surge of empathy for the man in front of her.
"If I knew how to remove it… I would… but I can't. He's done the same to me." She said quietly. His eyes softened only slightly, but still managed to maintain their mania.
"And that would have been your saving grace, yeah. But no. I have to follow orders, yeah… otherwise it…"
"Hurts." Sakura finished for him, then faintly suggested, "I can numb the pain…"
"I don't want the pain to be numbed, I want it to be gone, yeah. There's only one way to do that… no hard feelings, kunoichi."
She glared at him.
"'Sasuke is too much of a liability.' Direct quote from the horse's mouth, but what would really bite him in the ass… blow his little sister to smithereens… and I won't be around for him to have his revenge, yeah."
She struggled not to shout at him, knowing it would only provoke him further. "You know it wouldn't affect him if I died–"
"Still gotta follow the order, yeah."
"Find a loophole."
"Think about going back to Konoha and then tell me to find a loophole, yeah."
Sakura winced as she unwillingly did as he asked. She shook her head, sheer irritation taking over her empathy, "Then set when you'll kill us then! It doesn't have to be today!"
"Screw that, kunoichi. I'm not spending years with that bastard's noose around my neck, yeah."
"So you're just gonna kill me because you think it'll upset him?! I thought you'd left Akatsuki!"
"Trust me… if I had any other choice-!"
"You do have a choice, Deidara. Blow yourself up or DON'T blow yourself up." She said, "I've dealt with his jutsu for weeks why can't you?"
"Because I'm not like you, yeah." He snapped, "I'm nobody's puppet. Not even for a second, got it?"
Sakura's eyes narrowed, "And I am?"
Deidara rolled his eyes, "Think about your life since you left the Leaf. In fact, think about your life in the Leaf, yeah."
Sakura winced again, "What are you talking about?"
"Oh use your brain, yeah. Why the hell would Danzou target your family just because you had the Rin'negan, hmm? Wouldn't that make you an asset to the Leaf Village? A weapon, yeah? Why would Danzou, the warmongerer, leader of the Leaf ANBU do everything in his power to get a weapon to leave the village?"
Sakura froze as she considered this.
"You've been a puppet from the second those eyes awakened, yeah."
"Danzou was… he was mad… he…"
"And who do you think drove him mad, yeah?"
"Drove him… mad…?" She asked. She'd never considered this. After spending so much time with Sai she'd already assumed that there was something wrong with Danzou anyway, something that allowed him to make the emotionless human robots that were ANBU Root.
Drove him mad? Drove him?
"Who has the ability to do that?" He asked harshly, "What Clan has the ability to drive you insane just by looking at you?"
Sakura flinched and she looked at Sasuke who also looked stunned.
Tsukuyomi. She thought. Tsukuyomi… could drive you mad… if used in a certain…
"N-No…" She gasped,
"How would you know all that?" Sasuke asked abruptly,
"The other Akatsuki were told of Pein's plan."
"When Itachi and Kisame were sent to collect you."
The light in Sakura's eyes died in a flash of pain, and she slid to her knees, her arms hanging limp at her sides.
"Everything… was Pein's plan?" She gasped, while a quieter voice in her head choked …and Itachi knew about it? Itachi… he… did that?
Sasuke hand twitched, remembering the feeling that his life was nothing but a lie constructed by and for other people. The heavy strings of fate, which he had thought had been wound in his hands, were in fact wound around his neck like a dog collar, choking him and creaking with laughter as every second they grew tighter.
"Now you really know the truth… at least let me hinder his plans, yeah. Time to cut loose, Sakura, and you know as well as I do, the only way out is death."
Sakura didn't answer, her eyes only focusing, blankly, on Deidara.
"No…" Juugo said suddenly, "Even if it does mean you're a puppet that is no excuse for suicide…"
"Either I die my way, or I die their way, yeah. I choose mine." He said, he emptied his sackful of clay on to the floor, and proceeded to begin to feed it to the mouth in his chest. "See you on the other side, yeah."
Sakura closed her eyes.
"Katon! Goukakyou no jutsu!"
The force of a sudden blast of flames coming from the left of where they were standing was enough to knock the four of them backwards as it engulfed Deidara.
"That's the second time you've tried to kill my little brother, Deidara." A voice said quietly, strangely clear even through Deidara's screams as he was burnt to a crisp. "There won't be a third."
Sakura, still on her knees, heard Sasuke gasp beside her. It was unusual to hear any sort of sound or emotion come from him, but this was different.
She looked up at him, and she had to stop herself from gasping as she saw the utterly destroyed expression on his face. His eyes were that of a man in unbearable pain, whilst having no understanding of how it was happening.
That rules out a hallucination but…
She looked to where that voice had come from, and her breath caught in her chest as she recognised the broad yet slim frame, and slowly followed it upwards, analysing every inch with her Rin'negan.
It can't be.
The further she tilted her head and the further her eyes moved upwards was confirmation, after confirmation, after confirmation. She, who'd conducted her own examination on his corpse, she who had held that frame against her on a couple of occasions, she, who had kissed those lips–
Her body jerked instinctively as her eyes rested on his face, and met the eyes that had just flicked from Sasuke to look down at her. She felt like her heart stopped in that very moment, her body was buzzing, burning.
Too stumped by the sight in front of her to even consider speech, she mouthed wordlessly at him for a few moments, before she stood, her legs quaking as she did so.
The tension in her neck eased as the height difference dropped considerably, and had now travelled to her chest, where her heart was pounding painfully against her newly-formed breastbone.
She tried again to speak, but Karin beat her to it.
(A/N) Well… you wanted to know when Itachi was coming back… ;)
Next Chapter: Absolution (The spoiler came last chapter 8D)