Sakura's Point of View

When I began my medical training, I thought I knew what lay ahead of me: sleepless nights of studying and endless days of practicing, hours spent coped up in the hospital, chakra exhaustion, physical exhaustion, even more exhaustion, and, perhaps the most important aspect, lives that depended on me—dozens and dozens of lives.

One would think that would have scared me off, made me give up before I even started, what with my emotional instability working havoc on my destiny. But caring for people was in my nature, and I knew, from the very beginning, that becoming a medic was what I wanted to do with my life.

Tsunade once told me, I remember, that striving to be the best, to be acknowledged, to be renowned, also had a series of disadvantages. But I would have never thought that one of them would send me to Otokagure, serving under the man that once left me on a bench, in the middle of the night, after breaking my heart and killing what was left of my spirit.

How? You'd never guess…

My foggy mind could only barely register the sound of my phone ringing, but little by little, that became enough reason for me to slowly regain consciousness. I opened my eyes, half expecting them to be attacked by the unforgiving light. That did not happen, however, and as soon as I gathered enough strength to turn my head in the direction of the window, I realized that it was still dark outside. Which made me wonder just who would call at such a time.

If this is who I think it is…

Groaning, I heavily rolled over, reaching towards the nightstand for my cell-phone and flipping it open in one swift movement.

"Hello?" I asked, my voice groggy. If there had been any doubt to the person on the other line that I had been sleeping, hearing me should have shattered every last trace.

"Sakura, do me a favor and move your ass out of bed and in my office. Now!" the slightly annoyed voice of my mentor sounded through the phone, instantly waking every cell of my brain.

My brows furrowing, since she had been the one to tell me the other day that I should rest, I opened my mouth to retort, but she left no room for that, ending the conversation before a single sound could come out of my mouth.

Although my curious nature seemed to have abandoned me when I needed it the most, like it had a tendency of doing nowadays, the rational part of me took control, and before I even knew what I was doing, I was out of bed and under the hot spray of my shower. I had no idea what could have annoyed Tsunade to such great heights, because she usually reserved that tone for incompetent people—or for Naruto—but I sure as hell didn't want to be the one to suffer the consequences.

Boy, was I tired. I had stayed up late at the hospital the night before to heal a seriously injured group of shinobi that had just come back from an S-rank mission.

As usual, the satisfaction was immeasurable, but then again, so was the exhaustion.

I hurried through my shower, quickly washing my hair and my body of every last trace of blood I might have missed, before stepping out and wrapping a towel around my body. I wasted no time in gathering a heap of clothes and getting dressed, perfectly aware of the fact that it would take me quite a while to make my hair look decent.

Over the years, I had let it grow again, and now it reached down to my mid-back. The problem was that it had a tendency to curl up at the ends in an annoying fashion. Not to mention the fact that I had had to dye it (I had used washable paint, of course, because my pink locks were extremely precious), and get a new hairstyle because a stupid mission had required so, which meant that I now had some stupid, choppy, eye-skimming bangs to handle.

Much to my surprise, the haircut actually looked good on me—because my forehead was normal and had always been normal, thank you very much. But that didn't make my task any easier. Besides, most of the times it looked as if I had a big bundle of pink fur atop of my head.

Did I mention how much I hated that? No? Because I did—and quite a lot, at that.

Going back to the matter at hand, all I could afford to do to it this time was dry it and pull it into a messy bun. Then I promptly made my way out of my room and stormed down the stairs, out of the house that had once belonged to my parents.

I knew I was late from the moment I stepped outside, and I could only hope that Naruto—or any other human being, for that matter—had been in the Hokage's office before me, and that Tsunade had no anger left in her system. Although it was quite selfish of me to have such thoughts, there was no denying the fact that it was better for others to have their bones broken—and not me.

It seemed like luck was on my side this time, because, as soon as I entered the building, climbed up the stairs, and neared her office, I could hear shouts, screams, and sounds of objects crashing against walls—objects which I suspected were empty sake bottles—so I allowed myself a brief second to send a small thank-you to above.

Knocking on the door, I patiently waited for an answer, which came a mere second later, materializing under the form of a rather loud shout.

I looked around the room upon entering, surprised to see Kakashi, Naruto, and even Yamato present. I had a vague feeling that Sai would have been there, as well, had he not been away on a mission.

Confused, I gazed at Tsunade with a questioning stare, to which she responded with one of her own.

I think she needs to hear some kind of explanation for being late, my inner pointed out, and for once, I found myself agreeing.

"Um, sorry?" I offered, a small, sheepish smile on my face.

If I were to judge by my mentor's expression, I would say I hadn't been too late, because she wasn't that irritated. However, if I were to look around and realize that even Kakashi was present, I would have to change my conclusion somewhat. But since I seemed to have the choice entirely to myself, I decided to ignore that particular detail and stick to the first option.

The moment I saw Tsunade waving her hand in the air in a sign of dismissal, I knew I had chosen right.

"So… what's going on?" I asked, curiosity beginning to nag at me.

Tsunade heaved a sigh. "I will be as quick as possible," she stated, and then gestured to one of the chairs set before her desk. "Have a seat, Sakura."

Although still confused, I did as I was told. Naruto was occupying the seat beside me, while Kakashi leaning against the wall, gazing uninterestedly out the large window, and Yamato was seated on a chair next to him.

"I suppose you are all curious as to why I called you here, so I'll go straight to the point," she repeated, and took a deep breath before continuing, "It's about Uchiha Sasuke."

There were different reactions from the persons inside the room, but it was safe to say that surprise was a common element. I myself was shocked. We hadn't heard from Sasuke for two whole years, the last information that we had received about him being that he had been successful in his attempt to kill his brother.

We had waited for him to return back to Konoha, and Naruto even went as far as forcing Tsunade to promise that he would encounter no problems whatsoever in his way.

Days passed and turned into weeks, weeks into months, months into years—and he never appeared.

It would be harsh of me to say that I thought he had died somewhere along the road, but that was the truth. It doesn't sound like something a girl that had once been so in love with him would say, but in all honesty, I grew up.

Besides, any feelings I might have still harbored for him died the day I realized he wasn't ever coming back.

Naruto, on the other hand…

"Sasuke? What's with Sasuke? Is he okay? Is he coming back? He's coming back, isn't he? I knew it! I told you, Sakura-chan, I told you!"

He was still his loyal best friend.

It took a lot of self-control to keep from rolling my eyes and from screaming that he was not coming back, because if he were, he would have already been there, but I managed—for Naruto.

"He's not coming back," Tsunade spoke calmly, ignoring his shouts of confusion and disapproval, "Because he now holds a position that has rendered him unable to do so."

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught Kakashi slipping his ever-present book in his pocket, but the most obvious reaction was, by far, Naruto's.

"Huh? What are you talking about, baa-chan?" he yelled, waving his arms dramatically.

My teacher hardly seemed affected by his behavior, because she took her sweet time in answering his question. When she finally opened her mouth, though, she surprised us all. "He's Otokage."

At the same time that I choked on the air I was inhaling, Naruto's jaw hit the floor, Kakashi's uncovered eye widened, and Yamato straightened in his seat.

The entire room was silent for a long moment, as we all absorbed what we had just been told. As usual, Naruto spoke first.

"Huh? The teme became Kage before me?"

I rolled my eyes, leaning forward. "Tsunade-sama, how is that even possible?" I asked, frowning.

True, in a certain measure, taking into account the fact that Sasuke was—or had been, better said—Orochimaru's apprentice, it seemed logical that he was the next in line to rule the village. But he had abandoned it, left it behind like he did with Konoha so much time before. Had they welcomed him back? Why? Why with open arms?

"You are the first to hear about this—apart from Shizune, of course," Tsunade said, "And I have a perfectly good reason for that. I need a reliable team to deal with this matter."

"What matter?" I asked, apprehensively.

I had initially supposed that the reason why she had called us there to inform us about this was because we were his former teammates—because she thought we would want to know. But now, I started to lose hope that the situation was as simple as that.

"Soon," she said, dismissing my question, "We will tackle that a bit later. Now, to answer your previous question… Sound formed a council once Orochimaru was dead and Sasuke departed."

"A council?" I asked, leaning back in my seat and crossing my arms over my chest. "Wasn't it a village full of criminals?"

"Sakura-chan!" Naruto complained, and I rolled my eyes.

It was obvious he had understood that the reason why I suddenly became so cold was because Sasuke had been mentioned. I couldn't help it. Nothing that involved him was ever good.

"Fair enough," Tsunade agreed. "I suppose you can—and should, in most situations—judge a village by its leader. However, we do need to take into account the fact that there were—and are—innocent people everywhere, including there." She looked at me pointedly. "Now, it appears as though these innocent people and their council wanted Sasuke back. So, they contacted him—"

"Why?" I interrupted. "Why would they want him back? He was Orochimaru's apprentice. Weren't they supposed to be tired of his tyranny?"

Tsunade shook her head. "I don't have those details."

"Sasuke-teme isn't like that stupid snake," Naruto defended. "People have to have seen that."

"Regardless, Sasuke accepted," the blonde continued. "He took control of the village. And now… now it's time for us to sign an alliance with them."

"Wait, what?" I demanded, stupefied.

Tsunade, however, remained calm. "You heard me right, Sakura. He made an alliance with Sand, which makes him out ally by default, but he wants to sign an official contract with us—and truth to be told, I want it just as much as he does."

Understandable, since Tsunade had always wanted the best for Konoha.

"Do we need that alliance?" Yamato asked.

"Whether we want to admit it or not, Sasuke has done a damn good job there," she stated. "Of course, with Orochimaru gone, the village can develop more normally—I'm not about to deny that. However, I'm sure it still hasn't been easy for the Uchiha to put things in order. It's never easy. But that brat did it. And he did it well."

Much to my displeasure, I realized that I should have known Tsunade would give him credit for what he had done, regardless of her own—or rather, our own—personal relationship with him.

"Yamato, I need you to establish a meeting with the elders—and with the clan leaders," she instructed, before turning her gaze towards us. "As for the rest of you… you're going to Otokagure."

"I can't believe this," I muttered, shaking my head incredulously.

I had such a good feeling the night before when I slipped underneath the bed covers… Four hours later, and my entire life had been turned upside down.

"As I said before," she continued, either ignoring me or trying to make me understand, "We both want to become official allies. That means we have to sign a contract. Sasuke cannot come here, I cannot go there, so what better way to do this than to send delegates? And what better delegates than his old genin team?"

"Yeah!" Naruto exclaimed, throwing his fists in the air. "We're gonna see Sasuke-teme!"

Tsunade leaned back in her seat and seemed to wait for our reactions. I knew better. Tsunade never waited for reactions.

"There's more to this, isn't it?" I asked, watching her apprehensively.

Tsunade glanced at me. "For you, yes," she said.

I nearly groaned. "Tsunade-sama, look," I said, leaning over in my seat, "You know me. You know I love my village. You know I would do anything to protect it. But I don't want to deal with him—I don't want to deal with Sasuke."

"You're going to have to work out those feelings you have for him," she said, shaking her head.

"I hate him!" I snapped, my temper flaring at her apparent calmness.

"Possibly," she agreed, nodding. "But you're going to have to learn how to control that, because you're going to spend a long amount of time with him."

"Wait! What?" Naruto screamed in the background. "Why does she get to spend more time with Sasuke-teme?"

"Tsunade-sama, what—" I whined, but she cut me off.

"You know that, between two new allies, there is the necessity of a certain bond. We have decided that Sasuke will send a few of his shinobi here, and that we, in turn, will send somebody there," she explained, and I already knew what was coming. "Sound needs medical help, because Kabuto has proved an expert in torturing and killing rather than saving lives. Thus, you, Sakura, are going to Sound."

I shook my head stubbornly. "I'm not going."

She didn't even flinch. "Yes, you are."

"Think of it this way!" I offered. "No matter what, you must put the safety of your village first. You said it yourself, I'm the best medic you have—you can't send me away! What if something happens and you need me?"

At that point, I had already abandoned every ounce of dignity I had left and started to plead.

"We have enough good medics around, don't worry." Tsunade, however, was less than impressed. "I mentioned this in passing, but none of you paid attention—Sasuke is going to send a bunch of shinobi here, while I am sending only you. Being the best medic in Konoha, you make up for the rest. And personally, I prefer having only you gone, rather than a whole bunch of other medics."

"My ass!" I yelled before I could stop myself. "You're doing it on purpose!" I accused.

"I am not doing it on purpose!" she screamed back, slamming her hands on the desk as she stood up from her seat. "I'm doing what's best for my country! And you're going to accept my decision, whether you like it or not, because that's your duty as a shinobi!"

I glared, even though I knew she was telling the truth. "I already said—"

"I don't care what you said!" she yelled.

I snapped my mouth shut and crossed my arms over my chest.

"Besides," she continued, calmer now, "It's about time you solved your problems with the Uchiha."

"I have no problems with him," I spat. "They were all solved the night he left me on a stone bench, thank you very much."

I heard a chuckle from behind me, but I didn't brother to turn around and see who was finding this funny. I assumed it was Kakashi, though.

"Very well," Tsunade said, capturing my attention, "Then you won't encounter any problems in working together."

Taking in a deep breath to calm my crazed nerves, I decided that the best I could do was accept my destiny. "How long do I have to stay there?" I asked.

Tsunade smirked. "Until I tell you to come back," she told me, looking at me through narrowed eyes.

That was how our story started.

Looking back, I remember feeling a lot of things. Anger was the dominant emotion. But there was also fear. There was apprehension. There was denial. There was confusion. It was quite an interesting mixture. But more than interesting, it was terrifying. In its clutches, I felt thirteen again—small, weak, and insignificant. The portrayal didn't represent me anymore.

What did represent me was independence, strength, importance.

And apparently, also a certain degree of bad luck.

Tsunade never did accept any of the excuses I presented her with in the following three weeks.

So that was how I found myself on a hot August day, following a Sound shinobi to Sasu—no, Otokage-sama's office.

I wasn't naïve enough to ignore the little voice in the back of my head that said this was going to be a life-changing experience—although life-threatening would be a much better term, in my opinion.

But I sure as hell knew I was going to fight against it with everything I had.