Title: The Mission From Hell

Author: JackieLupin (you can contact me at )

Disclaimer: Kishimoto-sama owns all!

Rating: Light R for suggestive language, swearing, and battle scenes. And maybe some sex later on.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR THIS STORY: This is an AU, which means an "Alternate Universe." In this story, Sasuke never left Konoha and never attacked Naruto at the hospital after the Chuunin Exams. Also, I'm making The Hidden Sand Village an ally of Konoha; therefore, Gaara, Temari, and Kankuro did NOT attack the Hokage Sarutobi, and the fight between Team 7 and Gaara/Shukaku never happened. However, Orochimaru did manage to kill the Sandaime, so Tsunade is now Godaime. Sakura has trained underneath Tsunade for four years, so Sakura, Naruto, Sasuke and the Rookie 9 are now 17 years old, while Neji, TenTen and Lee are 18. Yamato-taichou and Sai are also around, but probably won't have major roles in this story.

If you have any questions, please contact me and I'll do my best to set everyone on the right track! Thanks!



The fact that the day had started out so beautifully should have been warning enough for Sakura that her first day off in weeks would be anything but a day off. She didn't realize this until a messenger bird flew into the training area with an urgent message from the Hokage for her team describing an uprising in Wind Country. Years later, this mission was affectionately known as "The Mission from Hell."

Even though today was her day off from the hospital, Team 7 still met to train in the mornings. The years had flown by in a flash; already the dynamics of Sakura's team had changed. Now that they were almost adults, she was aware of the maturity of her friends and comrades. Naruto, though still a playful boy at times, had begun to calm down and think about his words and actions before acting impulsively. His bright blue eyes and carefree grin, however, had not changed, though the relationship between her and Naruto had, and for the better too. Sakura smiled; Naruto was her brother and her best friend. She regretted her treatment of him in their early years, but when she had apologized to him years ago, he acted as though he had never noticed and left a very relieved Sakura trailing behind him as he headed to Ichiraku.

Team 7's notorious sensei had even opened up to them. Kakashi was not their aloof, detached sensei anymore; now he played the part of a very protective older brother, or father figure for Naruto and Sasuke, who both had never really gotten to know their own. Sakura had learned much about him; he was a pervert, yes, but he had a very funny sense of humor, and had the ability to cheer them up during the worst of times. She understood why at first Kakashi kept them at arms length, for he had lost all of his teammates at a young age. Now he welcomed them, but it was due to the effort she and Naruto made to convince the stubborn man that they weren't going anywhere.Sasuke, however, hadn't changed a bit. Though Sakura knew that in his own way Sasuke cared for his team, it sometimes was lost amidst his harsh, calculating comments or criticism. He never participated in the playful banter between Kakashi and Naruto, choosing only to spar with them during training. After training was over, he disappeared; not even Kakashi knew where he went, but he always returned in a foul mood. Sakura knew deep down that Sasuke would never rest until Itachi lay six feet under.

Now that they were all seventeen, Sakura realized that changes in herself had to be made, because everything else had changed. After three years, her blatant, pathetically obvious attempts to win Sasuke's affection had faded to the point where she refused to ask if he wanted to spend time together. It was only after she took a step back to reevaluate her life that Sakura realized that she was in love with a dream, nothing more. Sasuke sure as hell didn't secretly love her, that was for sure. He had made it clear enough before, and it was only now that she realized it.

"Mmm," she moaned happily as the warm morning sun hit her skin. She slammed her apartment door shut behind her and stepped out onto the porch, straightening her boots and gloves. Sakura brushed her hair from her face and tied her hitai-ate before stepping down onto the curb and jogging down to the bridge near the west edge of Konoha. The sun was shining brightly, there was a light breeze blowing in from the east, and the sometimes overwhelming smell of the noodle restaurants that lined the streets near the apartment building where both Sakura and Naruto stayed wasn't unbearable. At seventeen, Sakura had grown into her body; her hair was still short, barely brushing her shoulders, but she now had curves that even gave Hinata a run for her money, while still being rather slim and athletic in appearance.

And now that she wasn't that whimpering little girl anymore, Haruno Sakura was ready to take on the world.


By the time she reached the bridge, the sun was already starting to beat harshly on the town on Konoha. Sweat was just beginning to bead on her upper lip and lower back due to the heat. Kakashi was nowhere to be seen, but Naruto and Sasuke were already there and already bickering. Sakura smiled; even though their arguing was incessant, it was who they were, and both of them were family to her. She may punch them both to the ground when her patience ran out, but every night she thanked Kami for putting Team 7 together.

"Sakura!" Naruto called, waving to her. Sasuke turned to look at her; Sakura almost expected him to smile, but then reprimanded herself for the tiny glimmer of hope she felt when Sasuke's bland expression did not change. He's not Naruto or Kiba, she thought to herself angrily, Stop expecting him to fawn over you!

"Ohayo," she called back, walking onto the bridge slowly. What was the rush anyway? Kakashi wouldn't even be here for another hour at best, but it was tradition for the three teenagers to be there on time. Who knows... if they were late, Kakashi might be early and catch them!

Or not.

"Man, it's hot!" the blond boy complained from her left after ten minutes of silence, slouching down against the railing of the bridge and wiping the sweat from his forehead. "Sensei better get here soon! I want to start!"

Sasuke's only response was to quirk an eyebrow at Naruto's juvenile behavior before turning his back on them to watch the river flow underneath the bridge.

Sakura merely sat down next to Naruto, tipped her head back against the railing, and closed her eyes. After a few moments of soaking in the sun and listening to the morning birds chatter away and the bangs of shops and stands just beginning to open, she cracked an eye open to glance around. Naruto was lightly dozing, a crumbled heap of orange and black that seemed so out of place with the gentle blues and grays of the water and the greens of the trees and yellow of the town that it would have hurt her eyes if she wasn't so used to the sight. Sasuke was no longer leaning against the railing, but was now lounging comfortably against it in a similar fashion to her position. His eyes were scanning the crowds of people that had begun to merge in the streets, though his expression was one of the utmost boredom.

She shook her head with a soft smile; Sasuke was aloof as ever, but it's not like she could do anything to break down that barrier. It hadn't worked in the past, why should she think it would work now? He resisted even Naruto's offer of friendship, and Naruto was persistent enough that it should have worked.

Sakura suddenly became aware that sweat was pouring off of her body; her shinobi uniform consisted of a black sleeveless top with red stripes running across the chest and back, with her trademark Haruno symbol stamped proudly across her belly. Underneath she wore the standard netting, through it was itchy and comfortable due to the heat. Her medic skirt and shorts remained the same, though she had traded her knee-high boots for more netting and bandages on her right ankle to help support an old injury. Even though what she was wearing normally would have been cool enough, Sakura felt like a radiator. With a sigh of frustration that gained the attention of her dark-haired teammate, she quickly slid her black shirt up and over her head, flinging it to the ground beside her.

The difference in temperature made her hum in relief. When she glanced over at Sasuke, who had suddenly gone very still, she was slightly surprised. His eyes were boring holes into hers, and even when she made eye contact with him, he didn't glance away indifferently like he normally would. Sakura gazed back, tilting her head to the side inquisitively. When a few moments had passed and he was still glaring at her, she grew annoyed. "Sasuke, what is it?" she bit out, her cheeks and the tips of her ears reddening from embarrassment and anger.

Finally, Sasuke looked away, and Sakura swore she saw a hint of red on his cheeks as he turned his head. "Put your shirt back on, Sakura," he said nonchalantly.

She gaped at him. "W-What?!"

"Put it back on." He looked back at her, quirking an eyebrow with a small smirk growing on his face.

"Why?" Sakura demanded, crossing her arms over her chest in defiance, though her embarrassment grew with every passing second.

"Well, if you want to look desperate, then go right ahead." The smirk grew larger on his face. She was so furious now that she was speechless. How could he? Sasuke looked so smug, sitting there smirking like it was one of the funniest things ever.

Sakura looked down slyly; her mesh shirt definitely showed some curves, but it wasn't like she was in danger of exposing herself. Besides, she had on a breast band and bindings that sufficiently covered her. She glanced up at Sasuke with a shrug. "I don't look desperate," she said uninterestedly, covering up her earlier outburst over his words. Brushing her bangs out of her face, she pretended to be indifferent, gazing instead up at the sky like Shikamaru usually did.

When Kakashi finally arrived, Sakura was so relieved that she had to restrain herself from giving a sigh of relief. Thank Kami, she thought happily upon seeing his silvery hair that defied all the rules of gravity, and even his usual, monotone greeting of "Yo" was nice to hear. Anything other than the drawl of Sasuke!

"Kakashi-sensei!" Naruto cried, stirring from his nap as he sensed the other man approaching, "You're late!"

The older shinobi grinned behind his mask. "I'm always late, Naruto. You should be used to it by now, eh?"

"What was it this time?" the blond demanded, but he too was smiling.

"Well, there was a baby bird on the street, so I had to find its nest-"

"Yeah, yeah!"

Sakura rose to her feet, dragging Naruto up with her. "He's right, you know," she teased her friend, "He's not gonna change his ways now. He's worse than even Shikamaru that way!"

Sasuke only grunted as if it made no difference in the world to him; Sakura was always surprised at his lack of resistance in rejoining Team 7 if he pretended that they were beneath him. If he had wanted, he could've been at the other side of Fire Country getting taught one on one with a private instructor for a better training routine with a sensei who wasn't chronically late. However, when Tsunade placed that offer in front of him after she had taken Sakura under her wing and Naruto was accepted by Jiraiya-sama, Sasuke had blatantly refused the offer and instead chose to participate in the sparring sessions of not only Team 7, but the other chuunin teams as well. Once a week for the past two years, the entire population of shinobi-in training, which consisted of jounin levels and lower, participated in a tournament to hone their skills and teamwork.

However, her teammates always managed to take the tournament and blow it way out of proportion. Well, Sasuke and Naruto, and all of the other males in Konoha as well, but her two teammates had always been notoriously competitive to begin with. Sometimes Sakura got so exasperated by their behavior and sullenness if they lost a match that she would proceed to pound them into the ground as best she could to cheer them up.

Because of their immaturity in dealing with this particular situation, Sakura chose to spend much of her time with Kiba, Shikamaru and Neji; when the three jounin practiced together, Sakura joined them. Naruto and Sasuke were too busy battling each other to be good sparring partners, and Kakashi, although he was a formidable shinobi, took it way too easy on her, but Shikamaru, despite his laziness, was an excellent partner. Her kept her on her toes the entire time. Their sessions were very refreshing, for she was around very powerful shinobi, and watching them move and analyzing their techniques in turn aided her progress in growing faster, stronger, and more flexible. Sakura would always go to Naruto's apartment in the afternoon, sweaty, dirty and sore after the training sessions of both Team 7 and Shikamaru's, happy and smiling. For some strange reason, whenever she came home from training with those elite ninjas, Sasuke quickly sunk into a foul mood; she knew he became annoyed by the way the corners of his mouth would tighten, especially when she would mention Neji and Shikamaru.

Serves him right, Sakura thought to herself as Team 7 marched over to the training field, I'm my own woman. Maybe he'll see that someday. I'm not someone who shows up at beck and call!


The training ground was a sorry sight. Once a lush, green forest, it had drastically been changed by the diverse habits of Team 7 and the occasional spar with Sai and Yamato. Due to the sheer strength behind the attacks, the terrain was rough and rocky with huge craters in the middle, courtesy of Sakura, while Naruto and Sasuke had succeeded in burning most of the trees to the ground. Kakashi was to blame for the mud, for he preferred using his water ninjutsu to counter the fire ninjutsu, and Sai helped with the splotches of ink that decorated the landscape. And because of Yamato, there were various "bases" around the area to stock supplies and weapons when Kakashi initiated a training exercise with teams.

Today was one of those days. When Kakashi, Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura reached the middle of the training area, Sai and Yamato were already waiting for them.

"Ugly," Sai greeted her with an emotionless smile. Sakura just sighed and shook her head; she was positive he did it now only to annoy her. Of course, when Sai turned to say hello to Naruto and Sasuke, which most likely consisted of a spattering of insults, Sakura quickly shut him up with a well-aimed jab in the ribs.

"Sakura!" the Root ANBU protested, "I was only going to-"

"Sai!" Naruto growled, though he was smiling as he playfully hit the artist on the shoulder. Sasuke, however, stared at Sai with a slight scowl on his face. The two had never gotten along; after they had been introduced, Sai's "nicknames" had greatly offended the Uchiha. The battle between them was something Sakura would never forget, for Sai had actually managed to keep his own against Sasuke before the Uchiha had finally activated the Sharingan.

"Yamato-taichou!" Sakura smiled at her old captain, quickly changing the subject as to avoid yet another battle.

"Sakura," he responded with a small smile, before taking Kakashi to the side. While the two began to converse in hushed tones, Sakura turned back to watch the strained conversation between the three boys. With a sigh, she turned away; arguing about the effectiveness of an art jutsu compared to a Kage Bunshin no jutsu got old after awhile. Sometimes she wished there was another girl on her team, just so she wouldn't feel so alone. But then again, Hinata, Ino and Tenten were the only girls in their group, and they seemed to manage just fine.

"Okay, listen up!" Kakashi finally called, "You know what today is; the objective of our mission is to capture the scroll from the other team, while protecting our own scroll. There are boundaries, though. Naruto, are you listening?" When the Copy-nin was answered with a grumble and a scowl from the blond, he continued. "You cannot leave the training grounds, and you cannot switch teams and form other pacts, alright? Stick to your team! Yamato and I will also join in, but we're only going to be for supervision. The rest is up to you. If you use any jutsu that aim to kill, your team will lose."

When the four shinobi nodded, Yamato stepped forward. "Sakura, you and Sai will be paired together. Naruto and Sasuke, you will form the other team. You have half an hour to come up with a strategy, and then the match will start. This is meant to strengthen teamwork, since you all seem to prefer fighting a little too much with each other. Concentrate on working together. Understood?"



Half a mile away, Sakura and Sai settled down near the river. She turned to the artist as he scanned the surrounding forest suspiciously. "Can you see them?" she whispered, sitting down underneath a nearby pine tree and slinging her pack to the ground beside her.

"No," he whispered back, "I can't feel their chakra; they must have headed the opposite way."

"Good!" Last time they had done this exercise, Naruto and Sasuke ended up tracking them from the first moment; while she and Sai had discussed their plan, the keen ears of Naruto had picked it up. Every move they threw at the other boys were blocked and eventually, Sai had been forced to give up the scroll.

"Okay, hag," Sai began, ducking underneath the low branches of the pine to crouch in front of her, "How are we going to get through their defenses?"

Sakura was silent for a moment. Swiftly, she moved the brush and twigs from the ground in front of her and brushed the dirt smooth. "Okay," she murmured, "We know where their scroll is, because Sasuke won't trust Naruto with it. So Sasuke has it." With a small branch, she drew a 'X' in the dirt.

"Or Sasuke could have given it to Naruto if he believes we think he has it," Sai countered, deep in thought.

"Maybe, to fool us... Anyway, the base is here..." She drew another "X" near "Sasuke."

Sai sighed and twisted around to reach into his pack. He withdrew a clean scroll and a paintbrush and quickly began painting. Noticing Sakura's curious glance, he told her, "I'm trying to think of all of my animals that have given Sasuke the most trouble."

"Speaking of Sasuke and Naruto," she said, "Do you have any idea where they would be right now?"

Sai's hand stilled. "No," he said slowly, "But...I can find them."



Sai hastily stopped his painting of his five lions and instead drew three small hawks. Soon they were gliding far up in the sky. "When one of them spots the others, they'll explode," he said, before resuming his painting.

"Okay... we know that one of the two have the scroll... do you agree that Sasuke is way too paranoid to leave it behind? Yeah, me too. He knows that your dogs would easily find it. Alright, what should we do with our scroll?"

Sai turned to look at her with an interesting gleam in his eyes, gazing at her like he had never seen her before. Slightly alarmed, Sakura was very aware of the fact that he was looking her up and down in deep concentration. "S-Sai?" she asked.

"You should take it," he replied, his eyes settling near her chest area. "The scroll."

Feeling extremely violated, Sakura growled, her arm already winding back to deliver a punch to the artist's face. Sai wisely jumped away. "I don't mean it in a bad way, Hag! But think! Where is the last place that Naruto and Sasuke will expect it to be?"

With a snarl, Sakura leapt after him. "You should take it! Shove it up your ass! They won't think of that!"

"Tut, tut!" a voice said from above them in amusement. Sakura almost craned her neck, she turned her head around so quickly to find the intruder. There was Kakashi-sensei, sitting up in their pine tree with his nose buried in his book. "I don't remember teaching you how to use that kind of language, Sakura." His eye was creased in a smile.

She glared at him. Her teacher honestly was very annoying at times, but in this case, her anger deflated; she had been acting immature enough to punch her own teammate in the middle of a training exercise, so maybe it was best that Kakashi had chosen to interrupt their arguing when he had before she made a complete fool of herself. With a sigh, she let her arm fall to her side. "Alright, Sai, I see your reasoning. But sensei, wouldn't that be considered cheating?"

Kakashi just grinned. "Naruto and Sasuke aren't about to make the scroll easy to get to; why shouldn't you?"

With yet another sigh, Sakura nodded. "Okay Sai, you win. Give me the scroll." She took the offered scroll and, hesitantly, tucked it into her chest bindings. It was lucky that the scroll was on the small side, or its hiding place would be obvious. She then twisted around to grab her bag. "Alright... all set. While we're waiting, let's set up some traps."

Sai only smiled. "Okay, hag."


The remaining ten minutes flew by in a flash. Sakura and Sai, having decided to remain in their clearing amidst the traps, snares and exploding tags they had set up, settled down in the underbrush to wait. Soon enough, the only sounds Sakura could hear were of the birds and Sai's soft, rhythmic breathing. Kakashi had disappeared with a vague excuse; they knew it was only to check the progress of Naruto and Sasuke. Being the lazy shinobi he was, Kakashi much preferred watching them fight against each other than participate.

"Sai?" Sakura murmured after a few moments. They were sitting so close that the sleeve of his shirt was ticking her upper arm.


"Why do you call me 'hag'?"

He looked at her, a questioning expression plastered on his face. "I've always called you ugly."

She huffed. "But why? Am I really that ugly?"

Sai appeared even more confused now. He didn't answer for a long time, apparently deep in thought. Then suddenly, he snapped his head around to look at her again. "I read," he began, "In one of the books that taught about relationships, that sometimes people call other people the complete opposite of what they really are. I thought that by doing this, I could form a bond of friendship between you."

Sakura began to giggle in an attempt to cover up the blush covering her cheeks. "Aw, Sai," she teased, "You think I'm beautiful?"

But Sai didn't embarrass as easily as Naruto. He merely smiled, eyes closed. "I do."

At that exact moment, a loud explosion sounded from high overhead. Sakura jumped up in alarm, her right hand already gripping the handle of a kunai and snapping it out of her pouch. Sai grabbed her yanked her down quickly. "Stay still," he whispered in her ear, "They're close. Let's hope that they walk into more traps on the way over here."

Sakura snorted. "With Naruto leading the way, they sure will." Suddenly, the hair on the back of Sakura's neck began to stand up as chills ran up and down her spine. The flare of chakra less than five hundred feet from her was very strong, but it wasn't in attack... it was searching... for their chakra! "Chakra," she whispered to Sai hurriedly, "Sai, hide your chakra!" Quickly, Sakura concealed her chakra, but she knew the damage was done. The chakra that had been searching was without a doubt Sasuke's, which meant that he already knew of their presence.

"What do we do?" she hissed at Sai, but the artist didn't respond. Hastily, he scrawled out two small birds, then activated the jutsu. "Tosou wa no inku no Jutsu!" Sai bit out, holding the scroll up over his head; with a flash, the birds were up and racing through the trees. Sakura smirked when she realized what the purpose of the birds was; the ink was specially designed to detonate on the opponent and cover their body, therefore leaving the part it covered completely under Sai's control.

"Good thinking, Sai," she smiled, and then, reaching into her pouch, withdrew a handful on senbon. "I'll be the decoy! If you've got Sasuke under control, I'm gonna go after Naruto." As quickly and as quietly as she could, Sakura concentrated a small portion of chakra in her feet and leapt into the canopy, leaving Sai behind to control their clearing. She purposely allowed her chakra to flare for only a moment, knowing that Sasuke would feel it. As she concealed her chakra again and raced through the trees, Sakura tried to narrow in on Naruto's chakra trace. Although Naruto was easier to pinpoint than Sasuke, it would still be hard to find him, especially if he were stationary.

There! A flash of orange zipped through the trees above her, and Sakura, almost a moment too late, spun around to block the incoming barrage of shuriken. She rolled out of the way before jumping to her feet, chakra focusing in her hands like blades. Naruto, who had turned to throw the shuriken, was turning around to make a straight pass at her. Grimly, Sakura smiled; after the many years of team-oriented training, his techniques were predictable. The "Naruto" running towards her had to be a clone, because he would never rush at her headfirst like this... so where was the real one?

With a large, sickening crunch, Sakura sent her fist into the tree behind her. With a great groan, the large elm toppled over, narrowly missing Naruto, who had been hiding waiting for an opening as his clone attacked. The blond cursed underneath his breath as he jumped out of the way. "Sakura-chan!" he protested, though he was laughing, "If I didn't know better, I'd have thought that was meant to hit me!"

"Who said it wasn't?" Sakura teased, tearing off after him into the underbrush. She was a fast runner, but Naruto was faster; it wasn't long before she thought, Screw it! and focused chakra at the bottom of her sandals in order to increase her speed. Sakura was confident that even if Sasuke was aware of her location, Sai would be enough of a force to halt the Uchiha's path to help Naruto. As a loud explosion echoed from about a mile away, she grinned; Sai must have been able to catch Sasuke!

With a last push of her powerful legs, Sakura finally managed to reach Naruto; spinning around quickly so she was sailing through the air feet first, she landed a kick at the back of his leg, forcing it to collapse under the pressure and sending Naruto flying. However, when she managed to slow down and make a pass around again, she saw Naruto explode in a cloud of smoke.

"Naruto!" she shrieked, "You and your damn clones!" With a cry of fury, she leapt into the nearest tree and quickly formed the seals for her genjutsu. Sakura was only halfway through the last seal when a barrage of shuriken came flying at her from above. Quickly, she dodged the projectiles and sprinted away in the opposite direction, hoping to by some time, but Naruto and his clone were on her tail, lopsided grins on both of their faces.

"I've got you now Sakura-chan!" Yet another clone materialized to her left, forcing her to spin out of the way and change her direction.

Think, think! she thought furiously, What do I do? He's faster than me, has more jutsu... how can I capture him?! Then it hit her; "Chakra cords," she whispered, dodging a stray kunai that Naruto threw at her.

"Not so fast, Naruto!" she panted, spinning out of his reach and doubling back around, charging the "real" Naruto, fist already infused with her deadly chakra. His eyes widened, and when her fist was scant centimeters from his chest, he leapt out of the way; she took that time to painstakingly create a small, invisible strand of chakra hidden in her left fist using the chakra trace from her fist to disguise the new chakra trace from the chakra cords. Naruto landed on a nearby branch, gasping for breath. With a surprised expression on his face, he looked down at his chest and felt the ripped fabric of his jacket; a thin scratch had marred his chest after cutting through his shirt.

"Nice job, Sakura-chan!" Naruto laughed, "That's the third jacket you've ruined this month!"

"Stuff it, baka! Tell me where the scroll is!" Slamming her foot into the ground to gain momentum, Sakura hastily flew past him, a black and pink blur, and latched onto his collar. Taking advantage of Naruto's complete surprise, she bound his hands together with the chakra cord. While Naruto was incapable of moment, Sakura quickly threw two senbon at the two of his clones; one was hit and disappeared with a "poof", and Sakura finished the other off with a well-placed punch to the face.

"Now, Naruto," she sneered, walking up to where the blond sat dejectedly and crouching down to eye-level. "Where is the scroll? If you don't let me have it, I'll tell Sasuke that it was your idea to throw that party at his house! Remember that? He wouldn't speak to any of us for weeks!"

Naruto groaned. "That's low, Sakura!" he pouted, but he was grinning. "But I don't have it. Sasuke-teme does!"

Before Sakura knew it, a burning pain erupted in her abdomen, and she was suddenly flying through the air into the underbrush. When she managed to stop herself and land on her knees, Sasuke had already untied Naruto. She moaned in pain. "Dammit, Sai!" Sakura cursed, shakily scrambling to her feet and wiping away the line of blood that ran from her mouth. Fighting both Sasuke and Naruto at once was not on her list of priorities, not when it felt like she had a cracked ribcage.

"You didn't have to hit her that hard," she heard Naruto mutter to Sasuke, but the black-haired boy didn't answer; his eyes were fixed on hers, even though the Sharingan hadn't been activated yet. "It's not a real fight, teme."

With alarm, Sakura realized that Sasuke was advancing on her, quickly. A flash of silver appeared in his hand, and with growing dread, Sakura realized that he wasn't going to hold back on her, no matter the rules that Kakashi and Yamato had laid down. Snarling, Sakura rapidly retreated and ran as fast as she could despite the exhausting pain in her side. If she could just reach Sai, then their team might have a chance-

"Where are you going, Sakura?" Sasuke asked cooly from directly in front of her.

In her haste to stop to avoid colliding with him, Sakura fell to her knees. Through darkening eyes, she glanced up at him. His face was impassive as he stared down at her, but a small smile quirked his lips. "I apologize for kicking you so hard."

He thought that her pain was funny. "Don't bother," she said nonchalantly. What do I do now? Dammit Sai, where are you? "Let me guess; you're looking for the scroll."

Sasuke merely shrugged. "I know you have it, since Sai didn't. Stop stalling and just hand it over, and I can start my real training exercises for the day."

Sakura, think! she admonished herself, How can I confuse Sasuke? What trick is there that he will fall for? Then she remembered; Sasuke relied on his Sharingan for most of his taijutsu; even though he could understand how to block an attack, his body wasn't always fast enough to follow his mind! If only her body was up to fighting... but there was an easy way to remedy that.

"Well, then, I guess we'd better get this over with," Sakura stalled, slowly moving her hand to her right side, calling a gentle dose of chakra to flow through her hands to mend the bone, knitting the muscle and bone cells back together until the injury disappeared.

Sasuke's eyes narrowed, but he still made no move to attack. His lack of action angered Sakura; he obviously believed he could beat her without effort. Well, he'd be in for a surprise, because she wasn't about to let him win. With a touch of sadness, she realized that his apathetic manner towards her would probably never change; she was nothing to him. Grimly, recalling her training with Shikamaru, Sakura lowered her body into a crouch. "Always wait for your opponent to make the first move," Shikamaru had told her as she watched him and Neji spar, "If he can turn your first attack against you so quickly, then the fight is over." Her eyes staring intently on his hands, Sakura waited for Sasuke to approach her.

Finally, it seemed as if Sasuke deemed that he had waited enough. With a growl, he swung his leg up and over, aiming for her head. He expected her to duck, so instead, Sakura lunged to the left and parried his kick, starting her own attack pattern at his back. Her fist managed to connect before another kick sent her scrambling for safety. Breaking apart, they gazed at each other warily. Still, Sakura refused to meet his eyes.

Just when Sasuke was going to attack again, a loud explosion hit the ground feet from him. The shock-waves caused Sasuke to stumble slightly, and Sakura took the opportunity to slam her fist into his chest. This time, she had infused it with her powerful chakra, and she was not disappointed; Sasuke flew back several feet and fell to the ground.

Sai appeared behind him, with a group of lions hunched and ready to attack beside him. The lions surrounded the furious Sasuke, and, upon closer inspection, the two small birds were slowly approaching the Uchiha from behind, out of his line of vision. "Ugly!" he called, "Restrain Naruto, Sasuke has the scroll!"

With a nod and a grin, Sakura moved away from Sasuke, ignoring his glare, and stood next to Naruto. She poked him in the head, but he wasn't going to fight her. Naruto stood relaxed beside her, worry written over every inch of his face. "Sasuke should not have done that," he whispered, incredibly blue cerulean eyes locked on hers. "He didn't need to put that much power into it."

Sakura smiled, but it was wavering and she knew Naruto could see through it anyways. "We're even," she murmured, "I know I broke his arm with that last hit."

But just as the two small birds exploded ink over Sasuke's hands and Sai was reaching for the scroll, Kakashi and Yamato appeared in the clearing with a poof. "Naruto, Sakura, Sasuke," Kakashi called, a red scroll clutched tightly in his hands, "We have a mission."


And that's the end of the prologue! Hope you guys enjoyed it!

Please review, I love getting them! But if you don't, that's okay too, I'm not forcing you, haha!

The next chapter should be out soon, it's already halfway done. The mission starts!