(Sequel to Path of Thorns)
Chapter 1: Routine
The coldness from the pave beneath her seeped through her skin and into her bones. The room felt moister than the first time she made this little area as her temporary home.
How long had it been since she was first brought here? Three... four months? Really, does it take that long for them to track her down?
The mission was simple… or at least, simplified by words.
She would let herself get kidnapped, transported to Sound with Hunter Nins following her trail in order to hound Orochimaru's hidden lair. Also, if ever the tracking mission were to fail, she was supposed to settle to plan B and kill him herself by using a special jutsu.
It seemed easy when Tsunade explained it. But the moment she stepped inside his lair and saw him in person after so many years… she was terrified and briefly had an urge to retreat and jeopardize the mission. Escaping was not an option. Orochimaru specifically instructed Kabuto not to let her out of his sight and that was how she ended up in the dungeons, locked up in a thoroughly foul-smelling torture chamber, chained and battered.
She was usually summoned whenever Orochimaru was up for the surgery. Kabuto always blindfolded her whenever she went out of the room. The only area she was familiar with was the surgery room and her dingy cubicle.
A sharp, jolting pain shot down her spine just by slightly moving her torso. She had three broken ribs, nasty bruises on her face, handprints around her neck, rope burns and a few lacerations courtesy of Kabuto's scalpels. Usually it took a whole day for her to heal and two days to fully repair her damaged body.
Sometimes, she wished Orochimaru to lose any form of patience he had and just kill her. It was a much better prospect than the overnight agony of flaming contusions and broken bones. Even through sleep, she was being tortured mercilessly by nightmares of slanted eyes, snakes and Orochimaru's hoarse laughter.
Her first few days there were horrible. There was not a night that she didn't cry. Her heart was now filled with anger and loneliness. She was as good as dead and it was amazing that she could still function well in the surgery room.
The familiar sound of turning hinges brought her out of her thoughts followed by the soft footfalls coming towards her. She didn't need to open her eyes to see who just entered her cell.
He went to remove the chains around her wrists and feet. And when he was done, he stood beside her stone bed, looking at her through those eerie glasses, mocking here with his indifference.
"You'd better do it right this time, Sakura-chan. He's not very pleased with his progress." Of course he was talking about Orochimaru's left arm. She had just fixed his right a few weeks ago and now she was halfway through the other one. It was sad that this mission only led her to helping Orochimaru rather than delivering him to his own demise.
Sakura didn't say anything as she sat up with a soft wince. Her ribs were still broken and a little sore… but that never stopped them from forcing her to work. Kabuto immediately produced a black bandana and wrapped it around her eyes.
Another day in paradise.
Regardless of the mossy walls and moist stone floors of Orochimaru's fortress, Kabuto's laboratory was a complete overturn. The area was clean and organized. They had the most efficient machines and technologies Sakura had ever seen... and yet, none of these could heal Orochimaru's useless arm.
With a tired sigh, she put on her gown and mask and immediately went to scrubbing her hands. Kabuto was already inside along with two other medical Sound nins starting to prepare the area. She could see Orochimaru already lying on the table, waiting patiently.
Donning her gloves, she went in using her back to open the door with both of her hands remaining above her waist.
She could feel his eyes on her as she neared the operating table. She swallowed with difficulty making the mistake of raising her eyes to meeting his gaze. It was the last thing she wanted to see…
Slightly sedated, the man who caused so much anguish chuckled deeply, "You look incredibly horrible, Sakura-chan." Her name sounded like a curse in his mouth, "You may rot in your guilt, but don't let this affect your incredible skills in orthopaedics." The way his eyes narrowed into slits like that of a snake made Sakura tense all the more.
She kept herself from saying anything sarcastic for she knew a punch in the face would be awarded in exchange for her improper behaviour. Kabuto stood on the other side, monitoring IV and vital signs as Orochimaru started to look lethargic.
Surprisingly, Sakura found numerous problems on Orochimaru's arms. Both humeri were broken and some tissues were left damaged as the rest just, well, died. He also sported an inflammatory condition in the shoulder, which prevented friction between joint structures making it unbearably painful, especially when repetitively stretched. Earlier she had fixed everything one at a time and eventually finished the first arm. Her eyes now strayed over his right arm covered with a splint to keep it from moving.
In this operation, Orochimaru had to remain awake since she would be repairing an entrapment neuropathy that occurs when the median nerve at the wrist was compressed by a thickened flexor tendon sheath. Aside from the damage the fourth inflicted, one of the causes of this syndrome was repetitive hand activity. As she would operate on the nerves, she had to force him to move his fingers so she knew if she did the procedure correct.
When she explained this to him, all she got was a nasty smirk and a bowl of undaunted ego.
"Pain is something I can tolerate."
Sakura looked ready to punch him in the face.
"Because you're her apprentice."
"What makes you think I won't kill you during the operation?"
"You can't kill me."
"It takes a lot of courage to kill, my little medic. And I don't see that in you."
Those words had stung deep and up until now, she couldn't get it out of her head. Orochimaru thought that she wasn't brave enough to do something so bold. Perhaps it was one of the many reasons why he chose her.
It was because he saw her as nothing more than a medic-child who hadn't proven anything worth remembering for the past nineteen years of her life.
It hurt… The truth always hurts.
"I'm done." Kabuto's voice once again brought her back from memory lane.
"Okay." She then stared at the extended arm before her. Pointing the spot light straight onto the incision site, Sakura extended her hand, "Handle 4, blade 10." Feeling the object slide on to her palm, Sakura grasped the instrument and began dissecting. With careful precision, she slowly cut the skin, exposing the delicate tissues inside.
Two hours passed since Sakura had started releasing the trapped ligament and connecting the nerve endings. "You have to stay awake, I already told you that." She muttered between gritted teeth as Orochimaru released painful cries. They were really annoying and not to mention distracting. "Kabuto shut him up."
The older medic sighed, "Tell me how and I will gladly do it." He couldn't blame Orochimaru since he was currently experiencing excruciating pain due to the small amount of anaesthesia administered to his body. But almost three hours of listening to his cries non-stop tended to get outright irritating.
Orochimaru was lethargic, yes, but he was feeling every single movement of the forceps in Sakura's hand. If he was in anyway conscious, he could've hurt the girl.
Sakura relished every second of the bastard's painful cries.
As she worked on the delicate tissues, she also wondered if she should use the jutsu now. She could easily form that invisible ball of chakra and transfer it right into the bloodstream. The only problem was, Kabuto was watching her every move. Not to mention that she had two more Sound nins to deal with if her assassination attempt failed.
"You know what to do. Move your fingers." She ordered, knowing that he could hear her. It took a minute before Orochimaru responded and tried to lift his forefinger. Kabuto was encouraging him to try his best and in return, Orochimaru hissed angrily.
With no progress, Sakura shook her head at the outcome she had predicted. It would take a couple of hours before they could try again.
Storming out of the operating room, Sakura removed her cap, gown and gloves and began washing her hands. Kabuto came in next and took the washbasin next to hers.
"Another failed surgery." He said nonchalantly without sparing her a glance.
"It's difficult, and you know it." Sakura answered back.
"A normal person could not last repetitive surgery so fast." He silently pressed at the fact that Orochimaru had visited the OR with great frequency in three days to one week.
"Lucky he's not." She indifferently shrugged her shoulders. Orochimaru had the ability to regenerate quickly. Any form of lacerations inflicted on his skin healed quicker than a normal human being.
"This will cost you another punishment."
With a 'cluck' of her tongue, she grabbed a tissue and furiously rubbed her hand before throwing it away with force. "I'm looking forward to it." With that said she faced him and waited until that familiar blackness enveloped her.
Another week passed and she was now officially legal. Today was her twentieth birthday and she had to thank the ECG machine for reminding her.
Instead of celebrating, she was inside the OR, connecting nerves, moving ligaments and cutting delicate tissues. To make a story short, she was having a blast from helping her enemy.
This was her last chance.
Her last chance to use the jutsu Tsunade had taught her.
She kept telling herself she was definitely going to do it this time because this would be Orochimaru's last operation if she was successful. If not, she always hoped that he would die from a haemorrhage or shock… or something like that.
But the moment she saw those fingers move… she knew it was too late.
Aside from her age… she was now officially a failure.
"An orthopaedic surgery usually takes weeks or even months to recover. I suggest that you rest, report any signs of swelling and always elevate your arms to promote good circulation." Sakura stood straight in the middle of her patient's chamber, trying her best to sound as professional as possible. She was a wreck, so unsure of what was to occur. Her job was done, she healed Orochimaru's arms, she contributed to his plot, she failed to assassinate him… she helped her enemy. What now? "I will visit you twice for check-up as well as to alleviate the post-surgery pain."
Orochimaru kept his eyes closed even though he was awake and fully listening to the girl's ranting. He remained resting on his bed, a disturbing smile playing cross his slender face. "I was never wrong in choosing you. Tsunade taught you well." He said, followed by a hissing chuckle.
Sakura's fists balled at her sides as she kept her head still staring at the ground. It was obvious Orochimaru just gave her a compliment. Nevertheless, she felt nothing but hatred. His presence made her anxious. She wished he couldn't hear the steady thunder of her heart against her ribs.
"Tell me, Sakura… what does it feels like when you have the life of your enemy in your hands?"
Sakura's eyes flew wide; her heartbeat sped faster than normal at that question.
Kabuto took off his glasses and started rubbing them clean as he stood fastidiously next to his master's bed like a loyal lapdog.
"Did you think I would never notice how your chakra rises during those operations?" he laughed out loud that ended up in fits of coughs, "I always knew you had the intention of killing me." He lowered his head and opened his eyes, revealing tiny slits of gold staring directly into hers. "But I was right. You never had the courage to-do-it…" the last three words were drawled out slowly as if to mock.
Sakura was shaking upon the intensity of those snake-like eyes. "You are in a vulnerable state. I still have a chance…" they both knew that was a lie.
Orochimaru cocked his head to the side, pretending to look interested, "Ah, are you trying to convince me... or yourself?"
"Oh please, don't stop on my account."
"You're pathetic," Orochimaru still appeared intimidating despite of his current state. "Those useless Hunter nins are dead. You're in my territory now, little girl! I can kill you anytime I want… any way I want…" He watched her intently as fear masked those hollow jade eyes.
Tightly clenching her fists, Sakura willed herself to stop shaking. "My job here is done… am I to be disposed of now?" Orochimaru was not the type of person who easily returned something he stole. He planned everything well and even hired transporters to get her. It was either she would remain and serve him as his slave or get killed.
"You attempted assassination. It is only right that you get a punished for your insolence!"
"Are you going to kill me?"
Orochimaru smirked, "Not unless you beg me to spare your life?"
Sakura felt her temper raising as she grit her teeth, "Either way, you will still kill me." All she got was a deep chuckle and that blew her off. "You monster…"
"Can't come up with anything better than that? I've been called a monster so many times by several people. It hardly affects me now. In fact, it strokes my ego." Orochimaru knew perfectly how to push the buttons and pluck the right strings. Right now, Sakura was under his control and it wouldn't take long before the girl snaps.
"It doesn't affect you because it's the truth. You are a monster! You enjoy killing, you get pleasure from seeing someone suffer, and you're a power hungry, manipulative, ruthless bastard!" She heatedly yelled all in one go. It supposed to make her feel a little better. "I can't see why you're still alive… you shouldn't be alive…" her voice slowly fell into a whisper when she noticed the Sannin's cackling died down and now was glaring hard at her.
"I'm alive because I'm strong and that I'm still halfway to becoming 'the ultimate being'."
"How are you supposed to accomplish that?" Sakura didn't know what driven her to ask. But once again, curiosity got the better of her and let the question flow out of her mouth.
"You ask too many questions," He told her, a little peeved.
"Is this the reason why you're waging war against Konoha?" Sakura bit her lip, inwardly trying to stop herself from asking questions that might annoy the Sannin. Unfortunately, her brain refused to heed her silent prayer, "You think that by destroying the village you came from will make you 'the ultimate being'?"
Orochimaru hissed in warning, "Are you testing my patience?"
"If you're going to kill me, then at least explain this to me!" Taking in a deep breath, she rubbed a hand down her face and despairingly told him, "Consider this as your medical fee." She's not really expecting him to tell her anything. Who was she to ask him such questions anyway? No one had ever dared and yet this bubble-gum haired medic girl crossed the boundaries and interrogated him straightforwardly.
"Take this with you on your grave, you little pest!" Orochimaru spat viciously, wincing a little as he accidentally nudged his arm. "The end of Konoha is my goal. I desire power… and I will surely gain it!"
"Then… then why did you let Sasuke escape? And… why did you let Naruto win your last battle? Those two are hindrances to your goal." It was all too confusing, "What are you planning?"
Orochimaru smirked at the mention of his two favourite targets, "Those two are mere pawns."
Sakura's eyes widened, "What?" swallowing thickly, she asked, "Am I—"
He chuckled darkly, looking at her with half-lidded gaze, "Your purpose was to help the enemy… the easiest pawn I played throughout the game, I must say."
She lowered her head in an attempt to hide her flushed with anger face away from his eyes, "This is all a game to you..."
"And you played well, my little medic. You did very well." He pointedly observed his two arms in their splints.
You bastard! With a cry, she charged towards him with a kunai drawn from the holster around her thigh. When the bed was only a few steps away Kabuto suddenly appeared before her and effectively stopped any form of advances from the kunoichi.
He grabbed the hand with the kunai and twisted it behind her. Now standing in back of her, he extended two of his fingers pressing pointedly at Sakura's neck right below her jaw. "One move and I'll smash your artery." To prove his sincerity, he pressed tenderly at the beating pulse.
"Kabuto will take it from here… you have no use for me."
"Are you going to kill me?" as stupid as the question was, she still ended up asking it.
Chuckling, Orochimaru licked his chapped lips. "You'll see." His words were the last thing she heard before falling completely into darkness.
Sakura coughed out the water that reached her lungs. Having chilled water thrown at your face was the most horrible wake-up call she'd ever had. She fought the urge to breathe while spitting water out of her mouth. Slowly opening her eyes, she waited until the blurriness disappeared.
"Hello, Sakura. Slept well?" Kabuto's voice drifted from somewhere around the room. She looked around and found him putting away the bucket in his hand. W-what? Wait… where am I? That's when she realized that she was not in her chamber and was lying on the operating table, bound and helpless.
She violently tugged against the leather straps. She wanted to scream if only she wasn't gagged. Her scream ended up a feeble moan of protest, which got louder when she saw Kabuto preparing medication.
Tilting the vial-up, Kabuto drew 25 mg into the syringe. Done, he placed the vial back into the table and started flicking the injection to remove the bubbles out. He then turned and approached the thrashing medic nin.
"Want to know what kind of drug this is?" Kabuto lightly asked just to tease her. "Nalbuphine." He didn't miss the way her eyes widened as an immediate reaction to the drug's name, "That's right, Sakura-chan. It's opioid. It's harmless, really, as long as you follow the right dosage."
Sakura shook her head violently as Kabuto neared. Nalbuphine was a sedative drug usually used in surgery. It was an opioid, a type of analgesia for moderate to severe pain. It shouldn't be administered more than 20 mg or else she might develop psychological and physical dependence, which was deadly. It should be used with extreme caution. Apparently, Kabuto would use it as a form of torture.
"You've been taking this for awhile now." A smirk crossed his face, "But don't worry. We're only halfway to 160 mg. It will take another day before the drug completely destroys the receptors in your brain."
No… Now she understood why she suddenly felt tired. Kabuto had been injecting the same drug since she fell unconscious. Please don't… this is… I can't… with her feeling euphoric and dizzy, she couldn't generate the right amount of chakra to dispose of the drug in her system.
"Fighting is useless. See, you can't even lift a finger." He figured the cold water he threw at her caused her thrashing.
Sakura closed her eyes tightly and felt warm tears escape. She didn't know what to do. It was over. She failed. And now she was going to die. She wished for a fast death... but Orochimaru preferred her to suffer first.
While helplessly lying there, she wondered what would've happened if she heeded Kakashi's advice and never left. Definitely she won't be trapped inside a freaky laboratory, tied down to an operating table and pathetically drugged.
It didn't take long before she felt the familiar prick of the needle penetrating her deltoid muscle. A long, worn-out moan rushed out of her throat as she felt the drug spread through the muscle, causing it to contract immensely. Not only was she administered with an overdose of the drug; it was also undiluted, making the stinging pain intolerable.
Sakura screamed and cried as she started to feel lightheaded and her vision began to blur. She couldn't think straight, unable to distinguish her surroundings.
"I will wait for you."
Forgive me, Kakashi… I'm so sorry. She could almost see the look of disappointment on his face and it pained her.
A loud collision slightly jerked her from her unsteadiness. She forced her eyes to follow the trail to where she heard the loud crashing sound. Blinking with great difficulty, she tried to pick out the scene before her.
She could see blood all over the wall across from her and a dead body on the ground. As much as she wanted to get up and see what was going on, her breathing grew shallower as the drug began to affect her body.
Somewhere above her blurry vision, a dark figure hovered. It released her from her leather bounds and from the foul tasting gag around her mouth. She felt fingers touch her neck lightly before trailing delicately up to her chin.
Dull jade eyes saw red and black swirls.
Sakura collapsed right after.