Disclaimer : None of the character, techniques and such belong to me. They belong to Masashi Kishimoto and Tolkien respectively. This crossover idea is mine, though.
A.N. : ... I'm just having real bad luck with updating one story but this one didn't want to be stopped. So I wrote it and here if the first chapter with its magnificient length. I just needed to get this out. That and I still haven't found that many crossovers in this category.. Well, I made one. I hope you lot like it, and that if you see anything wrong or if you have any suggestions, well... notify me.
Chapter 1: Get Gone, Real Gone
Sakura panted as she ran with all her worth. She was doing her best to outrun the death that was no doubt at her heels. At their heels. She had made an enemy out of every nation on the Elemental Continent! Emerald eyes focused ahead with burning determination—she wasn't going to die just because people wanted her to be dead! She wasn't going to let anyone kill the people that were most dear to her. They would have to go through her to go to her precious people!
Because the teammates around her were the majority of the people she called precious.
She fisted her hands in the pants of man she was carrying on her back, as if the action made him more real. The dark material easily blending in with her black gloves—these were Sasuke's pants. Sasuke was on her back. Sakura ignored the burning behind her eyes. This was no time to cry. She didn't deserve the relief that came with tears.
She was the one that had driven Naruto to this.
"Sai! Don't slow down!" She called without looking back. His footsteps had been lagging over time. But with her call the pasty skinned teen was soon at her side once again. Her eyes didn't look to him when she turned her head, but to the boy that he was also carrying on his back. Naruto was in just as sorry of a state as Sasuke. Even though they hadn't fought personally, he had had to fight off so many people just to bring Sasuke to them.
Sakura didn't know the details, but she could theorize over what had happened. Until they were all in a working state, she didn't need to ask. Naruto would have told him if it was truly necessary. He was stubborn like that.
Naruto had tried so hard for this. But he succeeded in bringing Sasuke back to her. But now that she had her former teammate back she couldn't understand it. She didn't know, she hadn't known till Sai and Shikamaru had pointed it out. She hadn't understood, truly understood that the type of suffering that Naruto had gone was truly unique from her own when Sasuke was concerned.
Sakura and Sai dashed in to a clearing, it was a decently large place with a river splitting through the middle of the field. If they had the time she would have suggested that they go around the edges and remain out of sight. But they had neither the time nor the energy to waste.
None of them had a home to go back to. And Sakura hoped that her parents... and their friends would forgive her and Naruto for this.
They weren't properly packed for being on the run. Sakura hadn't even really stopped to give Sasuke and Naruto medical attention when they stumbled upon her and Sai as they traveled toward the Kage meeting. They didn't have much food, spare clothing, only a small amount of medical supplies, and they hadn't planned on bringing enough weapons to fight an all out war against every ninja in existence.
Sasuke.. why did you..? Why do you still...?
This mental anguish was so clear and painful, she barely noticed that they had gone over the river. Her body had known by instinct to pump the chakra to her feet to help her cross. Sai remained at her side as they hurried. She really didn't understand why he was still there and why he was helping her bring two fugitives to safety. And becoming a fugitive himself—it took a moment before she understood and remembered that he had implied that he had had no one left to return to. He still struggled with his emotions but she had never really thought that he would feel such companionship to their team.
"Old hag..." Sai spoke softly, looking to Sakura out of the corner of his eye. If it had been said under normal circumstances then Sakura might have been angry about the name or would have used some energy to appear angry just for old times sake. But she couldn't waste the energy. "What?" Maybe that single syllable had come out angrier then it should have.
Sai didn't look amused. "Where can we go?"
Sakura didn't pause in her stride as she mulled over the question. Konoha and its allies were definitely not places they could go. They couldn't even go to their enemies because there was the fact that Sasuke had tried to make an attempt on every nation's Kage's lives! The Land of Waves was out of the question too. Even if there were no Hidden Villages there, they would still be surrounded on all sides by shinobi.
"We can go nowhere." Sakura said after a moment. "We can never settle in to one place. That would be deadly for us.." Her head spun as she tried to think of somewhere to go for at least temporary safety. Somewhere for them to lick their wounds—they all needed to go somewhere safe so that they could prepare to fight for the rest of their lives.
But she wasn't a genius. If only they had Shikamaru with them!
But Shikamaru wouldn't abandon his village like they had.
"… I may know where we can go." Sai said after a moment of deliberation. He wasn't looking at Sakura, but she was looking toward him. Her eyes became intense on his pasty, expressionless face as if he held the secrets to immortal life.
Not that she wanted to live forever, as it was.
"… I'm not at liberty to say. But I can lead the way."
Sakura went silent as she eyed the other boy. What if this was a trick? He had been a plant for Danzo at one point. She remembered the way he had been when he had first arrived on the team. She had almost lost her life because of him. Maybe he wasn't as willing to leave the village to he had appeared. What if this was a trick that would lead them right in to the waiting arms of the ANBU?
Then she remembered the seal that Sai had shown. The black marks that marred the back of his tongue. She shuddered to herself as they continued on their flight. She could feel the steady drain this was having on her. But she wasn't as weak as she had been years ago and she could endure this. Her super human strength came from her torturous Chakra training under Tsunade, the Godaime Hokage. She was that woman's apprentice. Maybe not her first but she had still learned under that woman. She was strong.
She would endure.
She wouldn't be the one that dragged them down.
And if Sai was in this together with her, then they would endure this together. She had to trust him. They would all have to trust each other if they wanted to live.
"Lead the way.." Hopefully this wasn't a mistake.
Sai nodded before shooting off. Turning their course a sharp right and leading the way—Sakura understood where Sai was leading them even if she was a bit puzzled over it. Why were they heading to the ocean?
Sakura sent Sai a neat glare as she made the raft. Or, she did most of the work for it. She was the one that had to cut and carry the massive logs over to the boy so that he could tie them together. It was a very crude ship. But it would be suicide to try and buy one and she didn't feel up to stealing one. That would be a waste of time and an accident waiting to happen. They couldn't leave Naruto and Sasuke alone and without the two of them around, if they were attacked, they would all be systematically hunted down and destroyed.
Though, the ship was a sign that wherever they were going was too far for them to water walk.
Setting the last log down with a huff, Sakura rolled her shoulders, ignoring her exhaustion as she watched Sai tie the last log on. Six short logs across, there was plenty of room for their packs and the four people that were on it. There wasn't enough time to make anything else for the ship. Who knew how close their pursuers were now?
It didn't take long for them to pile Naruto, Sasuke and their small, thin bags on to the raft. Soon, they had pushed the wood off in to water. Sai and Sakura stayed on top of the water and they continued to push until they found a good current that took them out to sea. It was fortunate that they found it, Sakura could feel the exhaustion really taking a toll now. Water-walking while shoving their makeshift raft wasn't helping her at all.
The day before had been the day Naruto had shown up with Sasuke. Sakura was surprised that they had yet to be caught. Sitting at Naruto's feet, Sakura looked over to where an equally tired Sai was sitting.
"Sai.. how many people know of the place we're going to?"
Sai glanced over to her, his dark hair, eyes and clothes standing out like a sore thumb against the wood of their raft and the water that they were drifting over. He nodded slightly, she had phrased that question well. Well enough for him to give something out without fear of retribution of a sort and well enough for him to actually say something. "Not many. But the few that know of it could be troublesome.." Sakura cracked a grin at the use of such a trademark word. Even if it made the ache inside her grow.
She stuffed her gloves in to the pouch at her waist and rubbed her hands together. She could bet one of the people that had any idea where they might be going would be Danzo. And that man was dangerous.
She sighed and stretched out on her back and watched the setting sun. "Wake me up in a few hours and I'll keep watch then while I run some diagnostics." Naruto and Sasuke weren't so injured that they would die before she could rest up. She needed her chakra in tip-top shape for this.
Sakura worked by candlelight. The early dawn light wasn't enough to work by. She hovered over Naruto. There wasn't that many injuries left on the demon-carrier. Sakura almost flinched at the though as she gently patted the other on the head. He was going to be exhausted for a while. But overall, he was healing just fine on his own. Even if she had to settle a broken arm before it could properly start the healing process.
She had turned her attention soon to Sasuke. His condition wasn't the best. She had to set his left shin, right ankle and his right arm. She had to burn a considerable amount of chakra for the medical techniques that were needed to fix him up. But by the end of it, Sasuke looked better then he had in the short time that he had been in their case. She rubbed the side of her arm as she looked at the makeshift splints. She had sped along the healing process of the bones but they were still fragile and the left shin was, for the most part, broken.
She had used Sasuke's own katana and katana sheath to bind his leg. She had searched him and came out with a sheathed small sword to use for his arm. The ankle had been done mostly with bandages and a kuni that she had quickly dulled and bent out of shape for him. He was incredibly fragile when compared to Naruto, so she was going to take some caution with his abused and overused body.
Sitting by his side, she reached out and touched his face… and wondered when the face of a stranger had taken the place of her teammate, crush and tentative friend. Sasuke had such a strong face now. Different from the softness that he had had as a child—it made her fists clench, just thinking about it. They could have all grown up together. They could have been friends together.
But Sasuke had run away.
Irritably, she rubbed the tears out of her eyes and blew out the candle. She waited for it to cool and solidify before slipping it back in to her pack. She shouldn't waste precious supplies just because she wanted a little light and warmth. The sun was just rising and finally turning the inky black sea in to it's natural blue. Looking ahead and behind she couldn't see any sign of land.
It scared her a bit. She didn't really know where they were. She tugged on her own shirt as she watched the sea around them. Watched the movements, the currents… It was all so flat. It was as if this world of constant change and watery depths went on for eternity. It was soothing, it felt like a world that was meant just for them.
A world just for them because the world that they had tried to live in couldn't accept them. Or, they couldn't accept the world.
Sakura kept watch on their nothingness as they continued to drift along on the ocean's current to the destination that would hopefully bring their safety, all the while her thoughts remained at the home that was no longer a home and the people who would know be searching for their heads.
Naruto had woken up two days after they had been at sea. It had now been officially five and a half days since they had become the enemy to every nation. Naruto had shown regret, but there was a determination in his eyes that Sakura didn't want to question. It was a determination that she only wanted to draw strength from.
Sasuke showed no signs of waking.
They were already rationing supplies. Sai had even taken to the water to try and find some edible sea life. But the water was deep and the fish weren't anywhere near the surface so they all had to stick with their ration bars. The cardboard flavored bars were at least handy on the fact that they filled you up easily and supplied plenty of energy.
Sakura just wished that they had a lot more of them. Or at least had some more food in general. She knew that Naruto was still hungry, he had the stomach of a black hole. And she knew that Sai was hungry because he was eating significantly less then them. And she knew that she had been given more then the others because of her importance as their medical ninja.
They all took long turns sleeping, it kept the edge of hunger off most of the time and stores their energy.
They drifted in silence.
Sasuke woke up on the seventh day. They had run out of food by then. He didn't say a word to them as he gazed up blankly at the sky with his black eyes. He had closed his eyes and ignored them all even though they all knew he was awake and he knew that he wasn't fooling anyone.
Sai looked like he wanted to say something, but thought better of it. The silence remained unbroken.
They all had heard the tears that Sasuke had shed that night. The soft wetness to his silence hung in the night air with a viciousness that was normally only seen in battle.
On the eighth morning, they spotted enemies on the horizon. They were coming in fast behind them so Sai summarized that they may be Mist-nin coming to claim their bounties. Or just coming to claim them. Sai had been on watch when they appeared at dusk. He had shaken Naruto and Sakura awake and they all stealthily got ready.
"Even if you can't see it… the land should be close." Sai and mumbled as Naruto reached down and jostled Sasuke awake by swinging the other on to his back. Sasuke's face was unreadable as he surveyed them all. His body limp and his eyes heavy from on Naruto's back. The chakra exhaustion and lack of real medical care and food had taken its toll. The battle had done more damage then it should have without the proper recovery.
Sakura turned to Naruto and almost asked for the other to make clones to pose as them on their raft… but the question never came. That was a waste of energy. They wouldn't be fooling anyone.
Sai tentatively stepped off the raft and stood on the water. Easily keeping on top of the moving surface as he watched the others step off after him. Naruto stood firm and stiff with Sasuke clutched tightly. Sakura thought that Sasuke would have some unnecessary bruises on his thighs because of it, but she didn't say anything. Sasuke hadn't said anything to them at all in the times they had all been conscious.
Sai quickly led them ahead of their now empty raft, moving at a soft jog over the water. The water barely stirred as he and Sakura passed. Soft splashes and ripples followed Naruto's steps—but no one said anything about it. Now was not the time for lectures or conversations. Now was the time for running and escaping and surviving.
The raft was long out of their sight and the sun had risen and fallen low on the horizon before the tip of land could be seen ahead of them. The mist-nin behind them hadn't gotten further away even as they continued onward. Sakura could bet on her life that they had most likely gotten only closer to them on their continued run.
By the time they indeed, did see land, Sakura and Sai were nearing the ends of their rope. Naruto looked tired, but clearly wasn't as exhausted as the other two even it he was holding the alert Sasuke who was keeping an eye around their surroundings, looked as he had been looking for the past few days. He looked tired, weak and frail considering his damaged state and Sakura really couldn't imagine him as a threat when he was in such a state that he could barely move. It was like how Kakashi was during the start of their Wave mission. But Sasuke still had the energy to stay alert and keep an eye out for them as they continued to run. He specifically kept his eyes on the water at their feet for water jutsu. His continued survival was in their hands and if he wanted to finish his… quest of death and destruction he'd have to help them before he could betray them.
Sakura mentally cried out in frustration as she felt the water brush over her feet as she continued in her run. Land was so close but so far away from them. It wasn't fair, she was so tired she was barely keeping on the water. If they had had the strength and time maybe they could have used the raft but now it was the time to run. It was the time to run and her energy was falling short on her. A glance around showed that not even Sai was sinking as far as she was in to the water. But the pinched look on his face along with the sweat showed that there was some effort being used to keep afloat.
Sai, at her side, shot ahead then. No longer a jog but a full out sprint. It was an act of desperation and she could understand it. She was desperate too. She soon followed with Naruto bringing up the rear of their little train. They were so close to land now, Sakura could practically smell the greenery from this far out on the water. It was mixed in with the stinging salt but she could still smell it. Greenery was something she could, they all could, work with—they were Hidden Leaf ninja. If they could get in to it, they would most likely live.
They needed to get off the water fast before any of the ninjas tailing them grew a brain and decided to take to the water as a faster way of transport. She was sure that there were a lot of water summons that could be used. Even as her mind frantically went over the possibilities of their pursuers potentially extensive arsenals (were they even Mist ninjas?) they were steadily gaining closer to the land.
It was also just getting that much harder to stay on the water when the ocean under their feet was rolling up in waves. And they were big waves. Up ahead was a small cliff face with a few trees scattered on top of it from what she could see. She ignored the feeling of a wave crashing over her legs as she dashed after Sai. Concentrating solely on the pasty boy's black clad back. Soon they were at the cliffs and dashing up the side. Sakura's mind eased slightly when the strain of standing on water eased away.
Sakura was gasping harshly when they reached the top. Finally on solid land! They all paused for a moment to catch their second wind. Sai was bent over with his hands on his knees. His eyes were closed at the moment. Sakura turned to Naruto. He was slightly hunched forward, one eye shut and puffing harshly. She was a bit envious because Naruto wasn't gasping like Sai and herself. But that was Naruto for you, Sakura thought fondly before she turned her attention to Sasuke.
With one hand holding on to the back of Naruto's jacket, he was balanced perfectly for looking behind them at their approaching enemies. Sakura was thankful, if but a bit wary over how much they were starting to rely on Sasuke now. But he needed them and they needed more eyes.
It was less then a minute before they all started to move at a silent signal. Soon, they were from a sparsely tree infested environment to a full out forest. The air became hotter the further in they got. It became hotter and staler and darker. The trees became bigger. They became so big that the trunks were wider then most of the big buildings from Konoha. They became so tall that the first branches were several meters above their heads. The forest floor was coated with dead branches and leaves.
The only noises the forest made was rustling leaves. But that was faint from the forest floor. They had run for some time before they all took to the trees. Running up the giant trunks, taking care not to damage the foreign trunks lest the following ninjas correctly guess their paths. They turned and started to head right of their original direction. They were so high off the floor now that it seemed a world away from the huge branches they were jumping on. Eventually they started to slow down.
Soon enough, they had stopped entirely on one of the larger tree branches.
Naruto crouched down and eased Sasuke off near the base of the tree where the branch connected to it. Sasuke was still silent to them even if he was very alert and conscious of his surroundings. Naruto plopped down at Sasuke's feet with a tired grin. He absently scratched at one of the whisker marks at his face before he looked to Sai and Sakura.
Sakura had stretched out on to her side on the branch tiredly. She was so glad the branch was so long and sturdy and thick. It didn't even move under their combined weights. It was amazing that there were trees like this. But even now she couldn't find real appreciation for any of the forest life. She was more concerned about their lives. She turned to Sai, the only one in their group that was still standing. He nodded faintly before he quickly jumped up and propelled himself upwards to the tiptop of the tree to covertly have a look around.
This couldn't be a world made entirely of forests, right?
Sakura closed her eyes and consciously worked to ease her muscles. Everything was achy and sore and she hadn't had a bath in ages. The smell of salt and ocean clung to her clothes and it was clogging up her sense of smell. Taking a few more deep breaths she opened up her eyes to see that Sai had already joined them. He was crouched down in the small space between Naruto and Sakura. He glanced to the two of them, still ignoring Sasuke, he spoke, "ahead of us in the distance are mountains that stretch either way as far as I can see and the ocean we came in at is far behind us." Sai took a moment to motion to both directions as he said that.
"To our right and behind us from this position is just more forest that, after several leagues seems to mellow out in to glades and in the very far distance turns to rocks. To the left is the ocean." Sai finished, leaning back slightly on his heels after he finished.
Sakura frowned before she moved her tired body and sat up. This rest was going to end soon. They couldn't stay anywhere near this area. She looked to Sai and Naruto for a moment, evaluating them. Naruto looked tired but fit to travel. His stamina was notoriously long and Sakura envied him for it. Even though he was injured only a short time ago he was still working so efficiently. Sai looked exhausted, the shadows under his eyes were something Sakura supposed were on her own face. Sai wasn't going to last as long as Naruto, and Sakura knew that neither would she.
Sai had turned to Naruto and waited for the orange and black clad ninja to speak. Naruto rolled his shoulders and looked between the two nervously. He even glanced over his shoulder to Sasuke only to find that he had closed his eyes. Naruto didn't know if he was asleep or not but the bastard still hadn't said anything to him yet. Naruto gritted his teeth before looking back to his teammates. Raising a clenched fist he spoke, "we have to keep going. We need to get somewhere where we can rest.. and food." Then needed to find something.
"The vegetation here is unknown…" Sakura spoke for the first time in a long time and found that her throat was kind of scratchy. "We can't experiment with it now. We have to hunt animals and I haven't seen any yet." Naruto frowned at her, he hadn't really been looking for animals but now that she mentioned it…
This forest was awfully quiet. The hush that he now noticed was bringing up his paranoia levels. For all of them, their paranoia was rising now that they remembered exactly where they were—this was a very alien place.
"Sai… how did you know of this… continent?" Sakura spoke and Naruto gave them both a confused glance. Sai closed his eyes for a moment before he shook his head.
"Oh.." So he couldn't even answer that?
A silence drifted over them for a little while as they continued to rest. Sai eventually sat down properly before he leaned on Sakura's shoulder so he could lean against something. He quickly closed his eyes, resting as much as he could. Sakura made sure to stay as still as possible. From the way she saw it, they would be carrying Sasuke for a while, and since Naruto had the best stamina then he would be the one designated to carry their injured.
If they wanted to keep moving, Sakura knew that they would have to work in shifts with breaks. And she and Sai would have to help each other. Since they were the weaker pair they would have to switch more often as they ran and if they switched off they could both have periods of total rest. It was a bit unfair to Naruto but they wouldn't be able to go for long if they didn't do it.
Sakura looked upwards at the leaves and branches overhead. The treetops were so thick that she couldn't even see the sky through the many layers that existed overhead. But even she knew that night was coming. It was dark before, in the forest. The lack of direct light proved it so. But under the cover of darkness…
"We're going to head over the mountains." Sakura said finally, her eyes had zeroed in on the sleeping Sasuke. Sai shifted before he sat up. Obviously done with his rest. Neither Sai nor Naruto spoke as they waited for her to go on.
"Not only are the mountains a natural barrier.. but we need to get as far away from the ocean as possible." Sakura added. They needed to get as far away from the known entry point as they could. They may be going to a harsher environment but they could risk it. Because if there was enough distance and space between them and their pursuers then the chances of them ever being found would diminish drastically.
Naruto nodded his head, before he lowered it to look at his hands. "Guys… if they manage to catch up with us… I…" Naruto trailed off and clenched his hands together.
This was all his fault.
Sakura nodded, "you're right, Naruto." Naruto's head jerked up to give her a disbelieving stare. She gave the other an easy smile, "should they catch up we should split in to groups. Our meeting point will be… anywhere behind that mountain. How are your tracking skills?" She looked to Sai and Naruto as she added the question.
Naruto just laughed to himself. Of course… of course they couldn't see his apology. But the more he looked to them, the more he could swear he saw the acceptance and friendship shining through. Even if it was his fault that they were being hunted down.
"Dickless here isn't as good of a tracker as me. But then again its easy to track him, hag." Sakura and Naruto both pulled a face at Sai and shook their fists at the smiling boy. Sakura even went so far as to yank him around by his half-vest. Eventually, they calmed down from their brief moment of drama. Sai had done it, the tension that had been building eased away and they focused on the problem at hand.
Sakura took Sai in to account and spoke her verbal agreement, "if we get separated, Sai will track everyone down. That means you're not allowed to die." She added, jabbing a finger in to his arm and enjoying his wince just a bit too much to be normal. "Everyone has to make sure to lose whoever is following them. It doesn't matter how far we have to go, lose them. And it doesn't matter how far we go, because you have to find us, Sai." Sai nodded his head in acceptance of the task.
".. Sakura should take Sasuke if we get split like that." Naruto finally said, looking straight at the medic-nin. "After all, he isn't in the best condition." Sakura had looked like she was going to protest, but when he added that she went quiet. Sai looked between the two and he shrugged. "Fine with me."
And the matter was dropped as quickly as it came about.
"We'll talk about any… local people or animals we find later. We need to move." Sakura added as she pushed herself up. She rubbed at her thighs irritably. They felt dirty and after the rest it bothered her a little bit. But she could ignore it for now. She brushed off her rear and stretched.
Naruto was hauling Sasuke back on as Sakura turned to Sai to tell the boy of her idea for their pairing. Even as she turned, Sai touched her arm and spoke. "Sakura, since it would be best if we conserved energy, I.." Sakura quickly motioned for him to quiet down and she smiled to the slightly taller guy. "I know, I had that idea too." Sai nodded before he moved and turned his back to her.
So, he had the first shift carrying. Sakura easily climbed on to his back. Placing her hands lightly on his shoulders she held on.
"You're heavy, hag."
"Shut up, pasty bastard."
Naruto snorted and came in to step next to them. Naruto grinned at them before he leaped forward, his chakra infused jump taking him to the next tree with Sai only slightly behind him. The rest had been longer then Sakura had intended, but Sai had plenty of energy now it seemed. She rested her head on his shoulder and forced her tense body to relax. She didn't like being carried.
Forcing her eyes shut, she made herself rest. She needed the energy; she was going to be running at night with Sai on her back after all.
The switch was made some hours later and Sakura was happy to note that she felt more rested then before. But the feeling of being heavily drained remained with them still. They were all hungry even if they ignored it. She had taken a moment to inspect Sasuke's condition and even she had heard his growling stomach.
They were quickly growing weak with hunger and Sakura didn't know what they were going to do about it. And it seemed as if she was the only one that was actually worrying about it even though it was a problem they shared.
Their switch had taken place at a river they had found in the woods. It wasn't specifically a harsh river to cross without water walking. It was fast enough to create foam in some places, though. None of them had showed much dignity with the water as they quickly shoved their heads under and sucked as much as they could down without getting much of a belly ache. Naruto ended up helping Sasuke with a little too much enthusiasm with the fresh water. Sasuke ended up practically growling at Naruto—there were no words, that guy was still keeping his silence.
Sakura herself happily soaked her head in the water. Even if the water was chilly to an extreme she soaked her hair and washed her face. The water would help get rid of the oil that was clinging to her. It would also help fade away some of the smell of civilization from her. She knew that the others were more used to the wild.
And they were boys.
Her scented shampoo and conditioners were no help her. She couldn't smell them too well over the clinging ocean smells but hopefully the water would help the quick fading of the cherry blossom scent. She stilled slightly, the bare fingers of her hands threading through her wet hair to move the short strands out of her face. Rock Lee had gotten her those hair care products since he said they smelled really good. She had been training diligently in the hospital at the time… Sakura quickly squashed the feeling of regret and dried her hands on her clothes.
Carefully pulling her gloves on, she motioned Sai over to her. Sakura made a face when she realized that the other's front was wet with water but she didn't comment on that. As the other climbed on, she adjusted to the new weight with a smirk.
"You're such a fat ass, Sai."
"Shut up, hag."
Naruto just snickered at them as he pulled Sasuke on to his back again. Sasuke hadn't been protesting the way he was being carried around. Sakura supposed it was because he wanted to live and knew that he was in bad condition.
Once their groups were ready, they quickly crossed the river and carried on. The trees were getting thinner now. They were younger trees, shorter trees. The dirt was starting to show up in some spots instead of being a thick carpet of tree shedding. They stuck to the trees, though. Sticking to them like spiders stuck to walls. It was harder to leave a track to follow when they didn't touch the ground. As long as Naruto didn't expand too much chakra to the point where he left imprints, then they would be fine.
Sakura had something of a difficult time adjusting to the light levels. She hadn't really been on many night visions before. She was so accustomed to the bright lights of the hospital that this darkness was hard. It would have been better if they had some stars or a moon to light the way even if that was dangerous as well. Even if her eyesight wasn't the best, she still relied on her ears.
While during the day she had run alongside of everyone else, now she followed Naruto's path. She used her ears and her senses to fall in to step after her teammate. Naruto had always had better night vision when they were younger. Even better then Sasuke, although the younger Sakura had always avidly denied that. She felt, safer, following after Naruto like this.
It was better to focus on Naruto then on the pasty boy on her back. Sai had fallen asleep, but his face was pressed against the back of her neck. That most likely had to do with the fact that her shoulders were narrow and small and there was nowhere else. But it was giving her the creeps, slightly. Even though she knew he was asleep… it was putting her on edge, feeling someone's breath down the back of her neck.
But still, they continued on.
And they ran right in to their ambush.
They had reached the end of the thick forest. They could easily see the mountains from the ground since the trees had thinned out to a rare occurrence. Though, their group stayed near the biggest tree cluster for a little while as they took a rest. Or, really it was Naruto taking a rest because he had been running the longest.
Sakura leaned against one of the trees in the cluster, feeling the strange bark and examining it. It smelled of something sweet and when she climbed up and picked at the trunk out of sight, a liquid had oozed out. She had tasted it just out of curiosity and realized what it was. It tasted different, definitely strange but it was syrup. She stared at it for a moment, the kunai she had used to mar the tree sat comfortably in her hand as she debated with herself. Her belly ached and even if it wasn't food this might make it a bit happy. Hopefully no one would have a bad reaction to it. It didn't take too long to harvest a bit for everyone and the idea of something in their stomachs other then water excited the group.
No one helped Sasuke eat because his left arm worked just fine. Sakura watched him as he reclined against one of the trees with his broken right arm curled against his stomach and his currently useless legs splayed out in front of himself. His sandals were damaged to the point that it was impossible to repair them. They'd have to find him something.. eventually. His eyes were still black and still focused on the glob of sickly sweet syrup that Sakura had produced. It was sitting on a dirty leaf but really… not a single one of them were really picky at this point.
Naruto bumped shoulders with Sakura, making her look up from Sasuke to the blond at her side. He smiled down at her in a silent thanks before he stood up and stretched out his limbs. It wasn't much, this energy that they would have for the moment. But for now they'd be able to make a great distance. Sasuke was the last to finish up and Naruto impatiently hauled the other up again.
While Sakura did want to explore the plant life around them, it was time to go. She could explore later.
Sai motioned Sakura away when she approached him to continue to carry him. Sai didn't say anything, but Sakura supposed that he was too awake to rest for now. Once they were all on their feet, they headed out. They moved from tree cluster to cluster with Sakura leading the way and Sai managing the back. This was done so that Sakura could set the pace and because Naruto was carrying their injured.
Running in a line wasn't hard and as the sky lightened up more and more Sakura started to feel more relieved. If they hadn't found them yet when they had gotten this far, then they should be fine, shouldn't they?
Inner Sakura screamed and cursed even as Sakura started to relax more and more. They were safe now, right?
The senbon that shot through her legs told her otherwise as she went down hard with a strangled gasp. The muscles in her legs already freezing up and she quickly looked down her body to the large metal needles sticking out of her calf muscles. Four of them, two of the needles in each leg in a giant 'x' pattern—this wasn't just a simple disabling method, they had cut her muscles! Sakura paled as her eyes raised to Naruto's face as he jolted to a halt, her name on his mouth before he jerked around to look behind them even as Sai deflected more of the incoming needles with the tantō he had pulled off of his back.
Naruto dropped Sasuke to the ground, he landed with a harsh grunt on his back before he sat up next to Sakura's legs. Naruto yanked two of the remaining handful of shurikens from his left thigh hostler. He held them expertly between his first two fingers even as his right hand pulled out a kunai. Naruto and Sai had quickly jumped to either side of where Sasuke and Sakura laid in the dirt even as their pursuers surrounded them.
Five ninjas from Hidden Mist and Two from their own hidden village—seeing the leaf headbands on their foreheads felt like a cold stone had been dropped in to her stomach and it made Sakura aware that her headband was still proudly displayed on the top of her head. That Naruto still had his own on his forehead, that Sai was wearing it as well. They were wearing their headbands even now when they had no right to.
The Kirigakure ninjas that had arrived hovered around the edges as the two ninjas from Konoha edged around them, coming to a stop several feet from where they were gathered. One of them was wearing the traditional ANBU mask the cloak while the other was adorned with a simple jounin vest. It was a wonder why the jounin commander wasn't the one to hunt them down.
But Shikaku Nara wasn't there.
Naruto's eyes were focused on the Konohagakure ninja while Sai surveyed the five Kirigakure ninja. The jounin wasn't someone they recognized personally but Sakura could remember treating the man a few times for broken bones. Because of the lack of personal interest Sai inspected the five around them.
Definitely Kirigakure ninja—they were all so fond of bandages and dark clothing. Sai's face remained mostly emotionless, but the look in his eyes said another story entirely. Sai was very nervous.
All of the Kirigakure Ninja were ones he recognized from the photos he had been given in training. They were all very experienced and very well trained ninja. All of them specialized in assassination and many forms of silent killing. Naruto didn't seem to care, though, he was showing off his teeth to the jounin who was staring down at them.
Sakura almost screamed when one of the needles in her legs jumped from a burning sensation to pure pain. She looked to them to find that Sasuke had touched one even as he glared at her. The scowl on his face was fierce but Sakura wasn't cowed, she was closer to being pissed that he had dared to touch something that had hurt so much, the bastard! Sakura would have said something, but Sasuke hissed at her first.
"Fix yourself, woman!" His voice was thick and raspy and almost pained. He sounded nothing like himself, not that Sakura really knew what he sounded like now because the only time she had really heard him speak was when they had gone to Orochimaru's base and found him at the top of the exploded area.
Sakura tensed, glaring at the other before turning to her legs. Chakra soon lined her fingers as she reached out to carefully pull the needles out. The senbon were longer then the ones she had used before, but she didn't see the harm in using them in this fight. Her blood was already starting to pump loudly in her ears. A fight was to commence soon and she had some tension to fight off. Sasuke watched her with an unreadable expression before turning to the jounin as he cleared his throat.
"By order of the Rokudamie, for attempted assassination…" The man started, dark eyes flat as he surveyed them all. Sakura hurried herself in removing the remaining senbon as she curled her right, senbon free leg to her chest. She had to be careful, always careful when dealing with ninja who used senbon. They knew how to make the most brutal attacks with the least effort. "Uchiha Sasuke is to be put to death. For helping Uchiha in escape and turning away from their village, Naruto Uzumaki, Haruno Sakura and Sai—"
Naruto jerked forward with a snarl, the shuriken snapping out of his fingers with a sharp flick of his wrist. Even though he had thrown them, he dived forward with the kunai ready to be plunged in to the jounin's body. And if not that he looked ready to claw the man to death. The man easily deflected the shuriken and pulled out his katana.
"Kage bushin no jutsu!"
Sakura was up on her feet even as twenty more people popped in to existence on the new battleground. Naruto had multiplied once again to use his infamous tactic. Beat the enemy in to a pulp as fast as you can. With the senbon in hand, Sakura jumped to her right, the spot she had occupied soon became littered with multiple ninja weapons. Two Kirigakure ninja soon descended upon her.
The clones had generally disbursed amongst the field but that didn't stop two of the ninja from falling on to her. A man and a woman descended and Sakura didn't have much time to examine them as she continued to dodge the hail of weapons. She had seen this type of technique before and assumed that one of the two was a weapons master.
And even though she could recognize the attack didn't mean she could dodge everything. Senbon needles were quickly flying through the air, those were easier to dodge then the shuriken that soon followed. Sakura gasped and stumbled when two landed on her left thigh and one bounced off her hip.
She didn't have time to stop to heal from such a non-serious wound.
Ducking under a blade from the man, Sakura shot out her leg and used it to spin her body around so she could get to his side. She moved to shove the senbon she was using up and in to his ribs but his knee quickly connected to her face and sent her flying up in to the air.
Landing on her feet, Sakura back flipped over the potentially lethal stab of a katana from the woman. Her feet didn't get the chance to touch the ground again as the man landed a hit to her stomach and sent her in to the ground. Sakura landed on her back, bounced and rolled. Coming to a stop she moved on to her knees quickly and sent a chakra covered fist in to the ground.
The ground here was softer then their homeland and the ground didn't jut out. But the ground shook and seemed to explode from the inside. It gave Sakura the time she needed to cock back her hand and send two of the senbon flying. The woman dodged the one for her face but didn't have time to stop the one that targeted her crotch. Sakura grinned as she went down with a surprised cry.
No holding back for this.
Another senbon was sent toward the man who merely deflected it as he jumped off the newly misshapen ground. His sword was pulled back in a stabbing motion, the handle firm in his right hand with his left hand behind the handle to give it more force.
He didn't even land as several kunai made a home in his head. He was dead before he hit the ground and Sakura was long gone from where she had kneeled.
Her hesitation was small before she barreled in to the woman on the ground. She had sat up just in time for Sakura to land on her chest, forcing her back to the ground and the breath out of her lungs. Digging her feet in to the woman's arms, Sakura used the last borrowed senbon to stab the woman in her throat. She jerked and Sakura yanked it out.
If she had been in a less humanistic state and was more vindicative she might have enjoyed the fountain of blood. She could understand why these two had been good, but they had focused on the wrong aspects. She raised her eyes to Sasuke as he harvested more weapons from where they littered the spot next to him. She didn't know what to make of his help… but she accepted it. Stealing the woman's weapon pouch, Sakura jumped up and ran back to Sasuke's side.
She had to protect their invalid. Which meant she couldn't waste any chakra on her swelling face or on the gashes and scratches she had gotten in her short fight. Once at Sasuke's side, she surveyed Naruto and Sai. Even as she did so, Naruto made clones and the person she thought was Sai turned in to a puddle of ink when a Kirigakure ninja stabbed him. Said ninja was quickly kicked in the back for the attack.
Sai looked like he was taking care, and with good reason. Sasuke had killed one Kirigakure ninja and Sakura herself and eliminated one. There were three left. Well, there was one dead on the ground with his head cut off which meant there were two. Only one Kirigakure ninja was visible, the one hounding after Sai.
Naruto was making a right mess with the two Konoha ninja. The ANBU agent had taken over the fight with the jounin providing cover fire. And he wasn't missing. Naruto's copies were going down quicker the lightning. He wasn't even bothering with dodging as he continued to attack. He was forgoing jutsu and tactics and everything. He just swung with his clawed hands and snarled—the look of pure rage on his face made Sakura's knees lock.
And then the jounin found the real Naruto when the blond took a kunai to the shoulder and didn't disappear. The ANBU quickly focused on the real Naruto with a fire jutsu which he had the mind to dodge. But that jounin was a problem. Sakura knew she had to help and didn't think about the hand that shoved her forward. But before she knew it she was running, a kunai in hand that was out and ready to be thrown.
That cold stone appeared in her stomach again. She suddenly felt too heavy as her vision tunneled down to focus purely on the jounin. She was going to attack someone from her own village. Someone she had healed. Her gloved fingers clenched over the expertly wrapped handle of the kunai as her heart thudded in her ears and time seemed to slow.
This was what would cement it. In doing this act she would be officially cutting her ties to her home. Even if they had already cut off their affiliation with her she had still called Konoha home in her mind and soul. The world blurred but she didn't really need her sight to throw.
In doing this, she was officially cutting her bonds with that village.
With that home.
All because of Sasuke, the traitorous bastard.
Her heart ached and a cold sweat broke out over her body as she ignored whatever it was that ripped in to her side. This wasn't being done for Sasuke anymore!
I'm going to help you, Naruto!
And the kunai flew out of her hand with chakra enhanced speed. She watched as that single kunai had enough force to almost completely lop off the jounin's head. The world blurred and she quickly found herself tossed away. The pain in her side quickly flared and became overpowering as she landed and skidded on the ground once again.
By the time she found the strength to open her eyes again, a harsh kick to the shoulder turned her on to her back and she stared up at the Kirigakure ninja that towered above her, his feet at both of her shoulders. She couldn't see his eyes behind the goggles that he wore and his lower face was hidden and her insides twisted as time slowed again as the sword plunged down..
She couldn't breath, she couldn't move!
She was going to die.
An ink lion like creature clamped its jaws around the man and tore him away as he screamed and screamed and the lion mauled and mauled.
Sakura rolled on to her side and shook. She was cold and she was hot and she couldn't breath. Her chest heaved as her wide eyes roamed the area around her, focusing on Sai as he jumped down in front of her and hauled her up on to her feet.
He quickly punched her in the face and it was enough to knock her out of it, she staggered but she could breath again. Choking every so often, but Sakura still breathed. She looked up to his anxious eyes before looking down to her torn up side. Her left side was quickly soaking and it didn't take but a moment to wrap a hasty bandage over the gash and spend a bit of chakra to make the wound less serious. Sai helped her even as they listened to Naruto's battle.
It didn't sound like he was losing.
Sai patted her side and ignored her flinch before he stood and looked down at her. "Take Uchiha and go. There are more coming." He grabbed her shoulder and she almost moaned in pain, it was the limb that man had kicked so harshly. She didn't protest because of it as he quickly shoved her toward Sasuke. "We need to split. Don't stop." They couldn't fight like this, even if Sakura wasn't cataloging Sai's wounds, she did notice that the other was strangely bloody and hunched over slightly.
"I'll find you both. Run."
Sakura's sluggish brain mumbled that she needed to fix him before it went in to overdrive.
She stumbled over to Sasuke and hastily hauled the other on to her back. Ignoring his grunts of pain at the callous handling she was giving him, she looked to Sai who, with anxious eyes, smiled at her before turning to Naruto's battle and moving to help.
The distance between them was small now, but the distance in her mind had grown.
Her grip on Sasuke's legs was hard enough to make him shift. She quickly turned away from the battle and ran. She had to get to the other side of the mountains! She wouldn't stop, she wouldn't collapse—she didn't have the time to dally because she had to move. Sprinting almost dangerously fast, she quickly moved over the grass. The clusters of trees were disappearing in favor of a more rocky terrain even though up ahead she could see that there was another forest to enter long before she reached the mountains.
Ignoring the shuriken in her legs and her bleeding side she moved. She'd take a blood replenishing pill a bit when she became too dizzy. Then she would fix herself up a bit more at that point. Till then… all she could do was run.
Even though the sounds of the battle faded from her ears, it didn't fade from her heart.