Sakura wasn't really sure what people thought of her- the last person on her team to remain in Konoha

Author Notes... it's slightly AU.

"It's TEAMWORK."- Kakashi Hatake

Team 7 was disbanded and in her mind- gone, forever.

Forever seemed to be such a strong word.

It sucks up all hope and leaves you dry, barren, and empty.




But never alone, she would never feel alone.

Chapter 1... Of the Mind of Man

Sakura heard the sounds of birds chirping. She turned her head slightly to the open window and stared at the semi-darkness outside while she thought, 'It's been a long time since Sasuke left.' She drew her knees to her chest and wondered whether there will be any roosters today greeting the first rays of sun. 'It's been a long time since the mission to bring him back failed.' Usually, it was just Naruto and sometimes Lee, trying to imitate the birds and annoying the hell out of most of the villagers of Konohagakure. A giggle escaped her lips as she remembered throwing her alarm clock with deadly accuracy at him for disrupting her really fragile beauty sleep.

Back then, she was so pissed off at him…

"Naruto! Baka! Do you know what time it is?!" She had shrieked.

The alarm clocked had bounced off his face with a loud smack, "Ow! Sakura-chan!" Sakura, in all her glorious bed hair and circles under her eyes, was about to hurl her kunai and spare shuriken at him when Lee intervened.

"Yosh! Sakura chan! Is today not a lovely day! Get up early and embrace your life that is full of youthfulness!" He did his trademark thumbs-up and signature teeth-flash. Sakura watched him in amazement as his background suddenly was full of flower petals and mini- Maito Guys doing jumping jacks.

But then, the background faded behind him to reveal an astonishing sky full of pastel colors... It was so pretty. She saw Naruto and Lee exchanged knowing glances…

Snapping out of her reverie, Sakura let her head lean against her pillow and she smiled. After that day, every morning, she would sit with her two ninja friends, on her roof, and enjoy the scenery. "Greet the new day!" Naruto would exclaim. "Today, I'll get stronger, Dattebayo!" His background was full of happy faces and hands making victory signs.

Those two boys were rubbing off of each other. It's a really scary reality.

Soon after, Lee went on a solo B-class, bordering on A-class, mission. The new Hokage said that he'll be gone for three days. Sakura was ok with that, since she knew that she would see him again. But with Naruto, well, that was a different story.

Naruto. She frowned.

Naruto left. He'll be gone for a really long time.

There will be no one to greet the morning.

She remembered yesterday; Naruto's happy, whiskered face, naturally unruly hair, and outrageous, orange jumpsuit. She saw him heading toward the gates of the city when she yelled at him to stop. It was only when she noticed his stuffed backpack that she asked, "Naruto-kun, are you leaving too?" 'Along with everybody I know?' She willed herself not to cry.

Naruto looked at her with a guilty face. "Sorry Sakura-chan, I'm..." He scratched the back of his head nervously.

Sakura folded her arms, "You are leaving." She accused him. 'Stupid,' Inner Sakura thought, 'They all leave at one point or the other.'

Naruto shuffled around, "I'm the new apprentice for Ero-sennin." 'Jiraiya san.' "I'll be training under him."

"For how long?"

"Neh... uhh... Three years?"

Sakura was stunned. They were all twelve years old. By the time Naruto comes back, they'll all be teenagers. Three years was a really long time. "Ma, Sakura chan? Are you still there?" Sakura snapped out of her thoughts. "I'm not going on this trip to leave you Sakura chan." Naruto tried to explain, "I'll become stronger, strong enough to bring back Sasuke!" Sakura felt her eyes burn as Naruto continued on his passionate speech. "And then, I'll become Hokage, the best Hokage people will ever see!"

Sakura shook her head in amusement, he still have goals and dreams he can aspire to be. 'What will I be? Where will I be?' She wondered to herself. She started laughing, the type of laugh where one tilts her head down with her eyes closed and her hands trying to cover her mirth.


The koinichi's laughter suddenly did a one-eighty in front of Naruto as her tears of joy suddenly became tears of sorrow.

"Sakura!" Sakura looked at her blond friend and quickly wiped away her tears. Sniffling, she wondered whether she had the strength to hug him good-bye before bawling her eyes out. The two awkwardly stood there for another two minutes before Sakura interrupted the silence, but not before sniffing again.

"I- I wish that I had known you better." He understood.

"I'm sorry too. Lee will be joining you sooner or later. Oh yeah," Naruto paused, "watch out for the clouds and sun on people's clothing, eat better, and sleep more! Well, I'll come back! Just you wait, Dattebayo!" And he was gone; she watched his back as he walked away from her life, just like that. 'Clouds and the sun on clothing is a bad thing'? She thought. 'Eat and sleep… I do that right?'

"You better come back or else!" Sakura yelled out. Inner Sakura fumed, 'I'll kick his ass when he comes back anyways!'

Sakura shook out her daydream and got up from her bed. She stretched and paddled her way to the bathroom to clean up, and then to her closet to pick her attire for her day. She wondered whether she should wear something different for a change. It seemed like everyday, she wore that Chinese dress outfit and shorts; she could do with a change.

It's all Naruto's fault. Sakura saw in his blue eyes clear determination and ambition. She was struck by the power and she thought that she, herself, should improve with something. She suddenly felt that her previous twelve years in life were all meaningless and, she felt guilty over wasted time.

'To become stronger.' She thought as she thrust her right fist into the air, then immediately let her hand fall limp. 'Lee is rubbing off of me too!' A horrified thought came to her.

She looked at herself in the mirror at the closet door, silently observing her features. 'Yellow', she thought. 'She ought to wear something yellow, just for today. To change.'

She looked nervously at her bedroom door, "I'll do that," she muttered, "As soon as I find a way to sneak past my parents."

She yawned again, still half asleep.

"Me and Sasuke? Nah, I set myself on different sights now. Sakura-chan, what do you think of Shikamaru? ...Should I call him Shika-chan? Or Shika-kun? Or Shikamaru-kun? Is it kinky to call him Shika-sama...?"-Ino Yamanaka

The blond female ninja wasn't really sure what prompted her self to open her eyes as she laid on her side, facing her window. But she did. Ino looked at one of the rooftops of Konoha and blinked. Why was Sakura Haruno awake at six in the morning? A few minutes later, Ino joined her friend. "Forehead? Are you nuts? And..." She rubbed her eyes, "Are you wearing something different?"

Sakura, wearing a regular yellow t-shirt and comfortable slacks, looked up at her friend and smiled, "I'm sure you know that Ino-pig, I love your skills at observing people."

Ino stared at her friend and ignored the jibe, "Sakura chan, are you ok?" There was no reply. Ino yawned and decided to join her despite her still being half asleep.

"It's so pretty!" Sakura happily exclaimed, "I've been going up here everyday! Earlier if I must." Ino mentally groaned. "Naruto and Lee usually join me, but since they're..." The blond koinichi looked at her through bleary eyes and groaned aloud.

But since they're gone, can you stay by?

It was quite nice to be out here, Ino admitted to herself. Most of the village people were still asleep, the ANBU ninjas were quiet with their patrols, and the birds were chirping some songs. The sky was like a canvas, full of yellow, pink, red, and purple colors with an occasional cloud.

'Yeah,' Ino thought, 'I could get used to this.'

Sakura's smile increased tenfold as she enveloped her companion with a hug. Sakura was hesitant, "Uhh, Ino, does this mean that we're friends?"

Ino huffed, "Remember the Chunin Exams?" She made a gesture with her hands as Sakura absentmindedly touched her pink locks.

The pink haired girl remembered. When Sakura was fighting in the Forest of Death, she had to use her kunai to hack away at her hair to escape and to survive. They both knew that Sasuke had a thing for girls with long hair. It was an unspoken announcement that she no longer viewed the affections of Sasuke as important to her. Later, at the preliminaries, Ino sliced through her own hair as a symbol of a dead crush, and to try and imprison Sakura in her jutsu, but the two knew how that had ended.

When Sasuke betrayed his home town, Sakura tried to help him by confessing her love for him, only to be turned down cruelly. She winced at the memory, but Ino took no notice. Don't nice people finish first?

"Something's different about you forehead girl." Ino remarked.

Sakura let her gaze wander over to her old-new friend and grinned, "My hair is so short you've probably seen me scratch my neck a couple of ti-" Her sentence trailed off into the wind surrounding them. She yawned and rubbed her heavy eyelids.

"Hello? Forehead?" Sakura's dazed look snapped back to attention. "You're there right? Good." Ino nodded in assurance to herself. "If you want to, I guess, get stronger, I'll help. Just call me when you want to, between team meetings and stuff. But right now, I have to go meet with Shikamaru for something ok?"

Ino turned back when she was at the edge and saw Sakura's chin fall onto her arms. The sun was almost above the buildings, casting a long shadow behind her.

"Ok." Sakura whispered.

"Hey! Let's have a Ramen Contest! I know all the names of all the 873 different types of Ramen! ...Where is everyone?"- Naruto Uzumaki

The first thing Sakura would need to do is to figure out how in the world she could become a better ninja... koinichi. It was obvious to her that she was the weakest of her team. Kakashi-sensei is of course, her senior. But, Sasuke Uchiha was the lone survivor of the Uchiha massacre and he wielded the infamous Sharingan and Naruto Uzumaki was the Kyuubi container.

Her sleepy mind drifted off again to Naruto.

'What I don't get' Sakura thought sourly, 'Is how the villagers are so cruel to him. No wonder he loves the Ramen stand. Only Ayame-san and her dad were nice to him.' She couldn't get her mind around it: Naruto was supposed to be a hero. A hero he is not, at least to these ungrateful villagers.

(She admitted to being a hypocrite, but she, unlike the town civilians, matured.) 'When he gets back,' Sakura thought, 'I'll be sure to welcome him with open arms!'

'And a kick in the ass that'll send him flying through a hospital window.' Inner Sakura gleefully added. She eyed her short hair and sighed, still not used to the strands brushing against her neck. 'Itchy, it's all effing itchy,' Inner Sakura complained.

She went back to the thought of being the weakest link out of Team 7 and winced. Thinking back to all her memories, she realized that she needs to improve on everything except genjutsu... But, Kakashi-sensei once told her that she has a gift in chakra control and suggested on her to take advantage of her talent. Chakra control: the only true gift that she has as a ninja, a gift that offers unique advantages such as keeping precise chakra release, letting any use of genjutsu or ninjutsu last longer than usual. But that was it for the uses.


Sakura frowned. Kaka-sensei was also gone on an S-class solo mission. She felt pity for her sensei, the one he had the most hopes for, Sasuke, betrayed the Village Hidden in the Leaves. Kakashi even taught Sasuke his secret technique Chidori, the Copy-nin's single personally developed jutsu.

Kakashi, more or less, got stabbed in the back. The new Hokage gave him a break/ mission, told him that while he's gone, he might as well enjoy the new scenery of the Land of Water, Mizu no Kuni. 'Lucky,' Inner Sakura sourly thought, 'I bet he's either on the beach reading Icha Icha Paradise or on the beach with an armful of big-chested women cooing over him reading Icha Icha Paradise.'

Sakura couldn't really tell the difference.

The tree that she was sitting on slightly shifted. In an instant, she was on her feet, alert with a kunai in her hand. Was somebody following her? She isn't good with sensing other chakra signatures around her. God, she was still only a Genin, having failed her Chunin exams previously. The chances of her defending herself against any attack successfully are slim, very slim.

One minute of dead quietness passed. Sakura cursed to herself, she knew that she shouldn't have chosen to sit at a place so near the border of the village. There were a whole lot more missing-nins and hostile foreign shinobis now that Orochimaru and the Akatsuki have finally, officially, came out into the open.

After another few minutes of tension, Sakura loosened her grip on her weapon and adapted to a slightly less hostile pose. 'I might just be over reacting, with both of my teammates and my teacher gone, I just feel slightly… vulnerable. Yeah, that's it.' She made herself scarce by hiding in the top of the trees, between the leaves. 'Bad Sakura, you can't be that paranoid can you?'

An unwelcomed memory came into her head. Back at the Academy, when they were still learning ninja rules and ninja codes of honor, Iruka-sensei taught them ninja rule number 703, "A ninja must always be on the balls of their feet" and ninja rule number 1038, "A ninja must always have constant awareness over their surroundings." Granted Sakura didn't learn those stupid rules word by word, but those were the basic jists. Inner Sakura rolled her eyes, 'Damn ninja rule makers are so anal.'

She heard footsteps. Her musings were gone in a puff of smoke.

Someone's coming. This is bad. What if it was Orochimaru: the person who killed the third Hokage or Kabuto: the traitor? The sounds of footsteps got closer and closer as Sakura tried to control her breathing. Then, the noise disappeared and Sakura freaked out. 'Did they see us? Did they sense us? Oh hell, I knew we should've learned how to mask our chakra a long time ago.' Inner Sakura ranted. The stranger's chakra signature disappeared. Her hands gripped her weapon, and she would have to be careful though since she only has one and besides, who knows how powerful they are? Ally or Hostile?

'Oh wait!' She smacked her head, 'It could just be ANBU!' She dared to peek over her tree branch, saw nothing, and turned back around, 'Or maybe not. Don't risk it.' 'Ok, think. Are they good people or bad people? How can you tell?'

She almost yelped when a squirrel landed in front of her.

'T-that was close.' The animal started to chatter and squeak. 'Stupid squirrel, SHUT UP!' Sakura shushed the creature, only encouraging the dumb mammal to be louder. 'I swear I'll beat you up!' Inner Sakura growled.

And something happened.

Behind the squirrel a male ninja landed. She looked at his hitai-ate around his forehead that had a music note; she looked at his eyes that showed nothing; she looked at his hands that were shaking in anticipation. He had two katanas in each hand. She recognized him from the Chunin Exams, he was Yoroi Akado.

Honed lessons became instinctual with the training pounded into her by Kakashi- sensei. Sakura blinked, and then ran for her life, with the ninja behind her giving chase.

She concentrated some chakra to her feet, "Shunshin no Jutsu." She whispered.

Her side vision became a blur as her speed skyrocketed. The trees' leaves should try and deter her predator, she thought as she tried to make as little sound as possible, concentrating on how her feet landed and propelled off a branch silently as she darted forward. She can only move forward. Maybe, if the fates liked her, she can reach the village and scream for help, or loose her pursuer. 'Please, please, please, please, PLEASE don't get me killed.'

"Hello, koinichi!" She heard a voice behind her hollering, "Slow down will you? My weapons are dying for a taste of female blood." Said koinichi paled considerably and urged the power in her feet to make her go faster. The ninja behind her was still shouting something, probably bad words, but she tuned him out, and concentrated. Akado sounded more insane than last time. It was a game of cat and mouse, and Sakura began to wonder whether she really was running away, out of the clutches of her captor. His voice was getting more and more distant by the second. Sakura grinned, despite her situation; chakra control was an excellent thing.

Hope seeped into her; maybe she can survive for another day.

And Murphy's Law began to work its magic.

Her sandals slipped on some moss and she faltered. Loosing her balance, she crashed headfirst onto the forest floor. 'A chunin would never make that mistake.' Before she could recover her breath, something sharp dug into the flesh of her back and through her ribs, maybe puncturing a lung. She let out a soft cry of pain. There was somebody breathing down her neck, "Pink hair. You're on Kakashi's team of genins." Sakura released a silent sobbed; she felt so helpless. "You're close with the Kyuubi container and that Uchiha. I might just take you as hostage, to demand them..." He chuckled and hissed, "But I'm not sure whether anybody would want you: the weakest of your non existent team."

The weakest of my non existent team... It was true wasn't it? But now, here, there's nobody to save her.

Numbly, Sakura wondered whether her life was flashing before her eyes, it's said to have happened to a great number of ninja who were about to die. Every mission that she was in: the Wave Country fiasco, the Chunin Exams, etc, every fight she has ever fought, the images were playing themselves out in her head, faster and faster... Her hands, underneath her stomach, began to do seals: Ram, Bear, Ox, Dog, Serpent, and activate.

"Sakura chan? We have some bad news…"- Mr. Haruno

It stung her as such an insult, the missing-nin saw that she stopped struggling and he grinned on the inside. Orochimaru-sama was right, he smirked to himself, the Haruno girl was too gullible, too easy to manipulate. He bet that with a few well-chosen words, he could have the girl willingly follow him out of Fire Country. Akado grinned, this game made up for the dumbass orders that Kabuto had given him in the Chunin Preliminaries: purposely loose to the Uchiha in a fight.

He mused: he could, if he felt like it, force the girl onto him. He didn't mind, no moral subconscious made him feel guilty. In fact, he relished in the feeling of control over another. He twisted his sword that was in the girl's back, the girl didn't make a sound.

He frowned, something was not right. She was too silent, and she felt too...


He looked down in disbelief and realized that he had stabbed a leafy log. Scratch that, in her wounded form, the koinichi managed to do a Kawarimi no Jutsu, a Body Replacement technique without him, an experienced ninja, noticing?! Yoroi Akado looked around, knowing that she was still here, as a genin, she still can't mask her chakra completely, and despite the nasty surprises she has been giving him, he knew that she was here, somewhere. No matter, he spotted her in the trees, clutching her wound that was on her stomach where the sword had pierced right through her stomach, her other hand twirling a kunai on a finger, and her eyes watching him warily.

Akado face made a sneer, "bitch," he hissed. "Are you challenging me?" He lunged toward her, and saw her make another set of hand seals for the Shunshin no Jutsu. He narrowed his eyes. 'This again?' He thought in exasperation. Never should he have underestimated her, her Body Flicker Technique, was faster than his. He flew past the trees like a bullet, "Useless bitch! Think you can escape me?! Get back here so I can feel your heart's blood!" He roared. "I'll fucking punish you and make you scream for mercy as soon as I'm done with you!"

He was furious. He couldn't use any of his chakra absorption techniques since they required direct contact and the koinichi would easily dodge his hands. He would just have to get closer to her and hold her down, but it was impossible. That stupid girl was unbelievably fast, he remembered Kabuto mentioning something about her incomprehensible chakra control. Kabuto said… The missing-nin forgot what his companion said.

"Bring her to me alive, Yoroi Akado, I want her alive."- Kabuto

'For someone who is supposed to be an experienced shinobi, he's pretty dumb to not see through and yelled out, "AN ANBU is behind you!'. Make no mistake, Sakura was positively terrified but Inner Sakura always made cynical remarks in the face of danger. The guy behind her was a different type of Akado than was she had seen, a more insane type.

Unpredictable, who knows what he can do…?

She was loosing her breath too. Her hand was on her wound, unconsciously sending her power, chakra, to try and hold the wound close. Her left lung and her critical back muscles were torn. Her chakra reserves were not like her teammates, she was tiring and she was slowing down. Nonetheless, in the mist of her own body-flicker technique, Sakura kept running.

Past the trees and shrubbery, she managed to see an ANBU border guard, a hawk mask, a katana strapped to his or her back. Relief flooded her as she stopped in front of the shinobi who was staring at her through an unreadable mask. She looked up, hand still on her wound, breathing deeply, and said, "There's a Sound ninja." She made a half hearted move with her hand, "He was right behind me and I think-."

Taka- san grabbed her and took her to a tree stump. The pink haired girl looked over the ANBU's shoulder; there were five kunais and a windmill shuriken where she had stood a second ago.

In the air, with her feet dangling above the ground, held under the arms by a steady pair of hands, like a doll, Sakura looked at her protector strangely as she was moved and placed gently on the ground. "Wait here," she heard a gruff voice, and then the shinobi disappeared. Sakura blew her bangs out of her face: her day could've gotten worse, she could've died.

Wind picked up a little and blew a leaf past the girl's face, and the girl saw nothing blurs of figures battling.

Sakura saw the ground moving underneath the ANBU, creating a hill that rushed toward Yoroi Akado, intending to bowl him over. The enemy nin dodged, and then rushed toward the hawk ANBU, making a sweeping downwards motion with his katana. The pressure sliced through trees but Taka-san countered the attack with a spiral of vines that hurled itself at high-speed towards his enemy. The fight continued on.

Although the battle looked fierce, it was clear to Sakura that the Sound ninja had nowhere near the skill, expertise, and overall power of his opponent. The ANBU seemed to think of the same thing, because he doubled his ferocity, but the shinobi was still smiling like he had won.

Sakura realized why when she saw another flash, another ninja had rushed out of thin air and kicked Taka-san behind the head. Taka-san quickly recovered and dodged the new ninja's fists; he now faced two opponents. From her spot on the forest floor, the koinichi realized that the second Sound shinobi was a better fighter than most jounin, he would even give Kakashi-sensei and serious run for his money.

The second Sound nin fought using his bone as weapons and bullets. Sakura blinked, 'the skilled ninja is Kimimaro Kaguya!' She remembered many jounins mentioning about Kaguya among themselves as a powerful ninja, possibly, one day, he'll be as powerful as his mentor, Orochimaru.

She was worried; her only protector looked like he was struggling to keep both enemies at bay. Sakura closed her eyes, willing for this to be over. 'I swear, if I'm still alive after today, I will never ever hang out at the border of the village and will become a better ninja. Just let me live, please let me live.'

God she was so tired lately.

She blocked out the noises around her and retreated to a dark area of her mind and waited.

She breathed.

In, Out.

In, Out.

In that dark area, she imagined herself sitting down and shutting her eyes.

She couldn't feel where she was. She could hear shuffling and muffled whispers in the distance. Somebody in her head told her not to look.

Somebody brush barely against her back.

She imagined feeling a familiar presence coming up beside her and sitting down in a companion-like, comfortable silence while another companion was farther away, observing her. She imagined herself not wishing to know who her companions were, when she heard their shallow breaths. Just like she didn't want to know what was happening in the outside world.

Ignorance was bliss. She felt no pain. She felt weak.

Suddenly, hands clasped her ribs again, avoiding the bloodied hole in her back. Sakura opened her eyes and realized that the ANBU guard had taken her and began to run towards Konoha. The wounded koinichi looked behind, Kaguya was no where to be found underneath massive amounts of mud and trees. Akado still was standing and looked like he still wanted the fight to go on. Sakura, wincing at her torn muscles, flung her only kunai at him, which managed to bury itself into his lower leg, rendering him disabled.

Yeah, Yoroi was really incompetent. She practically threw her weapon like a grandma throwing radishes at kids to get them off her lawn.

Ignoring Akado's yell of pain, Sakura turned her attention to the ANBU carried her over his back. Taka-san was whispering in a low tone into his communicator; he called for possible back-up but more or less, he needed specialized trackers to find Kaguya who, last time the ANBU had seen, was heading North-East.

Sakura heard his labored breathing as they ran away from the scene. She looked at her surroundings and noticed the trees flying by in slower pace. 'He's poisoned,' Sakura thought, examining his paler skin tone and took a deep breath, 'I should try and help.' Sakura looked at her left hand that was dripping in her own blood and placed her bloody hand over Taka-san's injured shoulder. She forced her blood into the ANBU's wound by pure will. The pink haired girl tried to concentrate on the poison in his body which she was trying to draw out.

Her chakra and blood could not find any traces of the poison except in a big concentration near the ANBU's neck by his spine. She tried to pull on the poison, like a magnet. Time came and gone. "Don't worry Taka-san," She assured him, "I've seen this before, and I know what I'm doing." She stared at her handiwork, "At least I think I know what I'm doing." She muttered.

The man's muscles stiffened under her hand, when he heard her words. "Oi, stop tensing, it get's easier if you can just relax." Sakura complained, her bossy side getting the better of her.

"Ah, miss? As a member of the ANBU, I really think that you should-." The older ninja tried to reason and add a slightly threatening cover over his poisoned-laced, weak voice.

Sakura gave him a look.

She later would not, can not recall what she said to him, but she remembers that he stayed quiet, and that she continued her tiring work.

After a few minutes the koinichi groaned; all she could achieve was a mixture of blood and a yellow-green liquid to seep out of his wound. That was better than nothing right? At the Konoha hospital, while she was waiting for Naruto she remembered following around the medic nins, curious about their jobs. The medic nins didn't seem to mind, and so Sakura spent some of her time checking on Naruto and observing the ways the medics treated ninjas that came back from missions. Shadowing medic nins was easy, trying to imitate what they do was by far the most meticulous and taxing actions she has done yet. She counted herself lucky to have just happened to see the Dokunuki no Jutsu, the poison extraction technique, used once by Tsunade sama, a couple days ago.

Sakura Haruno had no idea that the jutsu she was attempting was S-Class. Her attempt took a lot of concentration and chakra out of her. Exhausted and unhappy that she couldn't help Taka-san, Sakura let her head rest on his back and fell into a dreamless sleep.

"Impossible, this generation has so much potential."- Yamato

When Tenzo first reached the village, he debated for a moment on what are his priorities. Should he first give the girl and himself hospital treatment, or report to Tsunade sama about the infiltration at the village border? He opted for a compromise; he gave the pink haired girl to a mildly bemused jounin, instructing him to give her to the medics, and then began to make his way to the Hokage tower, earning lots of curious and horrified stares as he made his way through the halls.

Tenzo nodded to a fellow ANBU member guarding the door to the Hokage's personal room and knocked. "Come in!" When the Slug-Sannin saw him, her grip on her pen loosened and fell to the floor. She didn't bother trying to pick it back up.

"Good grief! Yamato! Why aren't you at the hospital?!"

'What a surprise,' Tenzo as he took off his hawk mask mused to himself, 'she's sober.'

Yamato (Tenzo?) coughed, "There has been a breach at the edge of the village by two Sound shinobis."

Tsunade's eyes widened, "Oh god, you're poisoned too," She remarked, examining him, "Explain to me while I get you to the hospital."

Yamato shrugged, and started his way to the white building. He felt a hand pressing chakra into his open would on his back. "Don't worry," Tsunade reassured the ANBU, "It's just a minor jutsu to stop the poison in your system. Deadly nightshade extract mixed with chlorine if I'm not mistaken. The jutsu won't get rid of it; I will have to do my poison-extraction technique in a more appropriate area and then get you drugged up on meds, AGAIN." She gave a pointed look.

"Ah yes," Yamato ignored the look, "The poison-extraction technique: I thought that only you can use it."

"I am…" The Slug-Sannin replied questioningly.

"A genin who I carried back from the assault took out, albeit painfully, most of the poison. I noticed when my spine didn't become so stiff."

Tsunade gasped, "And you don't have any internal injuries?!"

Yamato sighed, "It was painful, she probably didn't do any lasting damage, but I probably have internal bleeding added to the fact that I already lost a good deal of blood. She should be in the hospital, and it was her that had the two ninjas trying to get through me to her, one I recognized as Yoroi Akado and another I suspect is Kimimaro Kaguya who attacked me only when I was about to beat Akado, at her tail. What amazed me is that her body-flicker appeared to have let her escape Akado, even though I saw that she had serious injuries."

They both know what that meant. Jutsus yield better results if one's chakra control is more precise. That meant that beating somebody like Akado in speed, although in a short distance, was impressive.

Yamato could see the dazed stare she had and could sympathize with her. A genin attempting a S-class technique and escaping faster than normal while wounded is something hard to wrap one's mind around. None-the-less, the ANBU continued to detail his fight to the bewildered Hokage, who was lost in her thought and shaking her head.

At last, they reached the Hospital, where Tsunade ordered Shizune to take Yamato to a room and tend to him.

"Dan, I can't take it anymore."-Tsunade

A few minutes later, Tsunade found herself looking at a green eyed koinichi with the most unusual hair color. The girl, named Sakura Haruno, was explaining to the best of her abilities what happened before she met the ANBU. Again, Tsunade couldn't believe what she was hearing, but in her state of mind, she deduced that Kimimaro Kaguya and Yoroi Akado were on a mission to take the pink haired koinichi hostage in exchange for her teammate Naruto Uzumaki and the Kyuubi's power.

"And Taka-san managed to get me back here." Sakura Haruno finished.

The Hokage smiled inwardly, 'Heh heh, Taka-san. Hawk-san. It suits him.'

'Her tactics are good too. I have never seen another genin use a Body Replacement Jutsu and gotten such good results. She even roughly healed her most serious wounds.'

The Hokage returned to the present. "Good work. I'm afraid, Haruno-san, that because of your near critical injuries, you'll have to stay here for a while." The Slug-Sannin gave the young koinichi a drink that's filled with sleep inducers that should take effect in a few seconds. 'Poor girl,' She thought, 'All she needs now is rest. Physical blood-loss is now stable, but it'll take some good sleep to get her chakra up to normal. She's dangerously low on it, because of her fight, no matter how good her chakra control is.' "You did well."

But as Tsunade was about to leave, she heard a cough, "Hokage-sama?"

The older woman turned around, "Yes?"

"Ano… I was wondering… um… It's a bit sudden." Sakura sat up and twiddled her fingers nervously, "Do you accept apprentices?" She didn't looked at the Sannin in the eye, but settled for the space between the nose and forehead.

Tsunade froze, "Well, I do...did." She said slowly, "But I can't take more than one. It's a first come first serve basis, I'm sorry, but that is the tradition for a medic-nin. I have already accepted one."

Sakura's face fell, "Oh. So, who is it?"

"Ino Yamanaka." The Slug-Sannin will have to bring out the booze after she's done. Something twisted in the pink-haired girl's gut.

(A certain blond koinichi sneezed in her family's flower shop.)

"Ah," Sakura fought to stay awake and not let the disappointment show. "Well, you can't get everything you need… I want to congratulate her…" She fell into a rare, deep sleep.

Tsunade observed the sleeping koinichi. Her face softened because what she saw was a troubled, young girl.

'I'm sorry, Sakura Haruno. Don't fret. I see potential in you too.'

'There was something about her.' Tsunade let the thought fly as she walked back to her office. 'It's like she…'



Shunshin no Jutsu. D rank. Body Flicker Technique. Used for short bursts of speed. The length of the jutsu and the speed at which the user goes depends on the user's chakra control and amount. Using the technique too long can cause inner damage.

Kawarimi no Jutsu. D rank. Replacement Technique. A mini-shunshin, trades the user for a nearby object.

Dokunuki no Jutsu. S rank. Poison Extraction Technique. User uses water as a medium and guides his or her chakra through the patient and uses the liquid to hold the poison that's being pulled out. Sakura's version is to force her blood through the patient and collect the poison. Chakra control is vital as one small mishap can cause severe damage.