CHAPTER FIVE

The pitch black darkness of the night sheltered the two collapsed figures among the foliage of Konoha Forest from sight. Suddenly, two bright green eyes blinked furiously open. Sakura slowly pushed herself up, her mind a wreck, for she had no earthly idea just where she was or how she got there.

"Hello?..." she called out softly. A second later, she heard the shifting of a body next to her and nearly screamed, but she managed to recognize Sasuke's pale face under the speckles of moonlight that pierced through the coverage of the trees.

"Sasuke", Sakura whispered. "Wake up."

He did not move. She placed her hands on his chest to shake him, but she immediately withdrew them.

"Oh, God." Holding her hands up to what little light she had, she could see the traces of dried blood. "Oh, no."

Stripping away Sasuke's shirt, she examined the vicious wounds that covered most of his body, along with the deep arrow wound on his forearm. With deeper examination, the swollen redness and yellow patchiness of his skin around the arrow alerted her that he had been poisoned. Without hesitation, she scrambled for his pack, hoping that her belongings would be in there. Thankfully, and rather quickly, she found her small bag of herbs and bandages. She spread the crushed petals and juices of hornfire over his wounds, and patted it gently around the arrow wound. For the next few minutes, Sakura treated the deep gashes and cleaned away the blood, using everything she could find in the pack and around her on the forest ground. Around half an hour into her treatment, Sasuke finally stirred, and slowly opened his eyes.

"Sakura…?" he whispered weakly, his clouded black eyes glistening under the moonlight.

"Shh", Sakura placed a finger on his lips. "You've been badly injured. I'm taking care of it. From the looks of it, you'll be fine and should be healing in just a few days."

He didn't answer her, just stared up at the tree branches.

"Sasuke?"

He tilted his head up slightly, letting her know that he was listening.

"What happened?"

"The village got raided. Naruto and Hinata are okay, they got away. They saw you though, and started to attack me."

Sakura wiped his forehead with a clean, wet towel in silence. They attacked him because of her? Or was it because him? She couldn't tell from his mostly emotionless tone whether he was lying or not. But then again, she could never tell anything about him.

"I'm sorry", she mumbled.

His gaze fixed onto her. "There is no need to be sorry. It was not your fault."

"It was my fault you got hurt. If you hadn't taken me with you, you would have come out fine."

A minute passed before he spoke again. "You are my responsibility, Sakura."

This was somewhat true, for he was the one that had put her in danger in the first place, but still—just why exactly was he running away from these Aiglatsian soldiers? The first time she tried asking him anything, they were interrupted with traumatizing news…

"Oh. Oh, my God", Sakura bit her lip as she remembered just what the traumatizing news consisted of, and tried her hardest to prevent the tears from spilling over; however, to no avail, the tears spilled over and streamed down her face. Before she could cover her face with her hands, she felt warm fingers wiping away her tears. Sasuke had lifted his hand to her face, giving her a faintly puzzled look.

"Did I say something wrong?" Sasuke murmured. She shook her head, unable to speak. Minutes passed before either of them spoke. It was then that Sakura managed to say, "They killed my mom… and Caleb."

Her declarative statement only made her cry harder. Sasuke pushed himself up, wincing at the immense pain, but placed his hand on her shoulder reassuringly. "Your mother is alive."

"…How do you know?"

"She has information they need. They would keep her alive. I'm also sure Caleb is fine, as he also holds information about you."

This seemed to comfort her to the point where she could stop crying and recover. Sighing, she looked down.

"You should lie down or your wounds will open up once more and probably get infected", Sakura said as she helped him back down. "I'm going to go out and scout for more herbs and see where we are. By the looks of it, it will only be a couple more hours before the sun starts to rise."

She took his silence as acknowledgement and rose with a small bag and her sword, leaving him covered in his heavy cloak. Trekking through the forest, she marked her trail by shallowly slicing the bark of the trees as she searched for any herbs. Occasionally stopping to fill her sack with useful plants, Sakura contemplated whether or not to return to Sasuke to check up on him—but she was sure he was fine. What could go wrong? The Aiglatsian soldiers surely would be gone by now.

Just then, the quiet chatter of men drifted through the trees. Freezing in her place, she strained her ears to catch what they were saying, but she was too far away. Gently, she tiptoed slowly toward the sound of voices, making sure not to make too much noise. Sakura eventually found herself near the edge of the forest, where the trickling sound of water made it evident that those men were resting near a river. By the sound of their conversation, they had been there for quite a while.

"When do you think we'll have to move out again?" One man said.

"In a little while", another responded.

"Ugh, I hope so. I'm tired as hell."

Sakura crouched down. She couldn't see anyone, for too many leaves blocked her vision. Carefully, she eased the branches apart and peered through the small opening in the vegetation. A small campfire. Four black horses. Four men, all in blue cloaks. Soldiers.

Shit.

She stayed quiet, hoping to get more information out of them.

"We're all tired. We've been searching all night for that stupid prince. We can't even find the girl, for God's sake", complained a soldier with dirty blonde hair.

Prince? Sakura assumed they were referring to Sasuke.

"The general is going to kill us if we don't find them. We've been searching for hours."

"The prince can't be too far from here, and neither should the girl. The two should be together. If we find them, it's like killing two birds with one stone", responded another soldier. Out of the entire group, he seemed the most serious—his black hair and solemn expression only added to the effect. In fact, he was probably the leader.

"We found so many dead soldiers near the forest, unless… Well, he probably already has gone ahead. And if he has, this whole thing was so stupid." The soldier who spoke kicked a rock into the fire. The flame flickered.

"Oh, shut up, Aelar. It's better than being in the unit that has to search through all the dead bodies back in the village."

Sakura took a step back. She had to let Sasuke know the soldiers were still here.

"Hey, did you hear that?" One of them turned toward where she was standing, curiously looking around.

"Yeah, sounds like an animal. Probably a rabbit."

"God, I'm hungry. Maybe we can kill it."

This wasn't good. Sakura slowly let the branches back to their original structure, but to no avail, the leaves rustled and the branches crackled loudly.

"Oh, that's no rabbit", sneered the black-haired soldier as he lunged forth and slashed away the tree branches with his sword, revealing a wide-eyed Sakura.

"It's her!" The other soldier—Aelar—yelled. The other two started toward her, but the one closest to her had already tried tackling her to the floor. She quickly dodged his attack and unsheathed her sword in the process.

The soldiers paused and shot each other amused looks.

"So you have a sword? How cute", sneered one of them.

"Don't underestimate her", the black-haired soldier growled, and unsheathed his own sword.

"Cynric, what are you doing? The orders were to not hurt her—"

Sakura used this little diversion to swing her sword into the side of this so-called "Cynric", but he swiftly blocked her with his sword. Ducking to avoid his next attack, she smirked as she tripped the soldier, and sent a painful kick to his face as he fell.

"You bitch!" he snarled as he landed on the dirt, grasping his soon-to-be bruised face. "What are you guys doing, just standing there? Get her!"

Realizing she would have to take on four soldiers at once, Sakura prayed to the gods, hoping she would come out alive. As they advanced toward her, she thrust her sword into the side of the tree, swung herself upward, and pulled her sword out of the bark—this time using the momentum to help herself onto a large, sturdy branch. This would give her a moment to think about her next move, for the other soldiers merely gawked at her from below and wondered just how on earth they could reach her. Just then, an agonizing thought struck her—would she have to kill them at one point? If all she did was run away, they would just go back to this "general" and report more information about them, but could she actually bring herself to kill them, much less shed any blood, if all she had been taught her whole life was how to heal the injured and the sick? She stared down at the soldiers, whom, at that point, had secured bows and arrows in their hands. She couldn't fathom the thought of stabbing another person, couldn't fathom the way she would have to watch the life leave their eyes. Could she…?

Do it.

Those two words resonated through her mind, coursing through the veins of her body, her entire being, as any questions of doubt—any thoughts of regret—slipped away into the corners of her mind. A kind of hunger, a thirst, that she had never experienced before emerged from the core of her body—slowly at first—but rapidly spread throughout her; this liberating feeling blacked out her thoughts, filling her completely. It was when the first arrow whizzed toward her that her numbed mind felt some kind of snap, but it was a kind of muffled snap—like some far away majestic structure just gave up holding its own and broke.

Do it.

She caught the arrow by the shaft in one swift motion, the metal tip inches away from her chin, her pink hair billowing softly behind her.

Cynric sucked in a short breath. "Oh, fuck."

Jumping down from the branch, she flung the arrow back, returning it the soldier who shot it. He keeled over, the arrow embedded deep in his chest, blood spraying the air, spraying the dirt underneath him.

Cynric watched, unblinking.

"It's over", he whispered.

Sakura charged forward at the two soldiers in front of her, deftly decapitating them both with one quick stroke of her sword. More blood splattered across her face, across her shirt.

The black-haired soldier fell to his knees, keeping his eyes on her emotionless face.

Her glowing green eyes and his own blood were the last things he saw.


Author's Note: Whew! That took me a while to write. It was kind of short compared to the other chapters, though, so I apologize.

I'm excited for his fic. Are you? :D

Anyway, please review! Reviews keep me going, most definitely. They keep me motivated. So if you want to see more, just keep reviewing!

Much love,

Tia