Soldier's Pride

Normal Monologue

Thoughts

Naruto's Conscious/Inner Sakura


Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto


A man dressed in a dark green army uniform stood in front of a large-pained window, his steel scrutinizing eyes scanning the recruits training in the dusty parade grounds below him. He had cropped grey hair and a faint morning shadow stretched across the bottom of his face. His arms were folded behind him neatly and he stood with legs slightly spread, at attention to the invisible leader in front of him.

The room behind him was dimly lit with only a few lanterns placed here and there throughout the small area, giving off a soft glow to create an eerie feel in the space. The walls were lined with bookcases, which were filled with maps, information on every type of terrain and numerous documents of the soldiers who were, had and would train there.

On his large dark oak desk there was a big leather book, its binding worn and torn in abundant places and covered in dry splatters of crimson blood. The man grimaced and turned his back on the activity outdoors and glanced at the yellowing pages of the hard covered book before him. They were names and ranks of the enemy's entire army, who they had been at war with for far too long. No side had given in for the past decade; the line between them wavering with each defeat and every victory, but never breaking enough to a point where one side was declared winner overall.

The door to the man's office opened slowly with a slight groan and a girl around the age of 17 poked her head in through the gap, her light pink hair cascading around her face, ending at the base of her neck.

"You called for me, sir?" she asked quietly, cautious. The general was well known for his unpredictable bursts of anger and though on her good days she could take the heat, after a full night on watch and no breakfast, the teenager was in no condition to stand through one of his rampages. The gray-haired man nodded shortly and gestured to a sturdy looking wooden chair in front of his massive desk.

"Yes Sakura, come in, come in." he muttered, waving her in absentmindedly. The pinkette responded obediently, coming to stand at attention in front of him and then seating herself lightly, awaiting her general's words.

The older man sighed and looked up, his stony slate eyes weary and dull, as if the life had been completely drained from his body.

"As you know, the recon mission retrieved this register from Konaha's forces about five years ago and has lost it many times since." he explained, his gaze flickering back to the stolen book, almost as if he was afraid it had been snatched again. Sakura nodded; she had been on one of the more recent retrieval teams in the past and knew very well that the beat up binder was highly important and very valuable to their higher ups in the Sound military.

"Well unfortunately, this only gives their names and ranks - I've memorized this book from cover to cover, but its unreliable. Soldiers have taken leave, more have been recruited, some promoted, others killed. It doesn't even show a picture or rough drawing, so I can't match a name to the face!! So, I need someone to go in on the inside and get some information on a few that I feel we need to keep a…close eye on." the general explained. Sakura raised an eyebrow; impersonating a Konaha warrior? That was the worst sentence anyone could give, worse then a death penalty! She felt bad for the poor sucker General Howard had condemned to living amongst those repulsive excuses for soldiers.

"The warrior I need is someone able to lie in a life or death situation, to blend in with even the most despicable of the bunch, to keep their cover when the rest of the situation is falling down around them…which is why I've chosen you."

Sakura's eyes widened. "W-what?! Me, in Konaha, fighting against you, talking to them!!" she exclaimed, her head spinning with the mere thought.

Living with Konahaians! How preposterous!! Never, and I mean never will I--

General Howard nodded decisively.

"You are the one I feel that is qualified for the job. It won't be for long - as soon as you have gathered the required information, you will be removed from their army as soon as the situation allows." the man promised. Sakura took in a breath, ready to respond in distaste, but her logic instantly took over her opinions. She knew this was important for the Sound's army; they needed the inside intellect of Konahaian soldiers if they had any chance of winning this war…and any hope of returning to how things used to be.

Sakura easily remembered the day the loathsome Konahaians that had killed half of their population almost 11 years ago to this day. Ever since, the Sound country had never been restored back to its former glory, all thanks to Konaha's barbaric attack. Crippled so horribly, it was a miracle they had survived as long as they had against their enemy.

"I…would be happy to accept the honor of carrying out this mission in the name of the Sound." the girl said deliberately. General Howard blinked his acknowledgment and immediately pulled open a drawer in the upper left corner of his desk. He retrieved a small clump of charcoal metal, with a small button on the side. He pushed it across the desk's surface toward the private.

"This is a walkie-talkie cell, an old development in the world of technology, but a recent luxury of our army's inventory. You'll use this to communicate with me here while you're behind enemy lines. Only use it when you're alone and preferably in an enclosed area. If you happen to be caught, we will not assist you, you'll be on your own. We will contact you when you have gathered the necessary amount of data, but only then may you return." Howard commanded. The Sound soldier dipped her chin the faintest bit in response and took the device, slipping it smoothly into the pouch at her side.

"Understood General. Should I depart immediately?" she questioned. The general grunted.

"Pack your things and get moving. Remove anything Sound related and dress yourself in rags of some kind. We want you to look as pathetic as possible; that way you'll blend right in with their new recruits." Howard replied in answer. Sakura smirked and stood abruptly, snapped a salute, turned on her heel and marched out the door, heading to her quarters to begin stocking up for her journey.

As soon as the heavy door shut with a click behind her, General Howard's blank expression fell, twisting into a glowing anger. His eyes flashed down to the open book in front of him and instantly, his sight was drawn to one name in particular, seemingly bolded amongst the rest. He fluidly drew a dagger from its sheath tucked in his belt and with a well-packed thrust, embedded it deeply into the book, the blade sinking all the way into the desk's top it lay on.

And it pierced a single name on the certain page he was on.

Uzumaki Naruto

20 miles inland from Konaha border--

Bone dry winds blew up off the ground, the endless sea of sand whirling up and around the single figure trudging through it. The jade-eyed girl gasped for breath, only to inhale another lungful of the grit in the air around her, causing her to lurch into a coughing fit.

Her hand flew to the water pouch hanging from her belt, grasping it tightly. She raised it her mouth and squeezed, but to her despair, only a single drop fell from its nozzle, practically evaporating in the air before it could even reach her parched lips.

Sakura sighed and exasperatedly thrust the bottle back through a loop in the torn piece of cotton she was currently using to hold her oversized shirt closer to her body, wanting to have at least little dents as a body instead of being a walking stick figure.

She glanced up and could literally see the heat waves rolling off the terrain like the mighty waves of the ocean. From what she read on a map, the closest recruit training camp lay roughly 22 miles from the border separating this dreadful country from her beloved home of the Sound. She had to be nearing her destination, but the freaking desert was taking so much out of her, it was unbearable. At this point, she'd rather be wearing the Konahaian uniform then taking another step in the blistering dry heat.

She stopped in her tracks and shook her head rapidly, trying to clear her head. If she thought being one of them was a good idea, then the heat must really be starting to getting to her. Taking as deep a breath as she could muster without being sent into another wheezing frenzy, she took a step forward and then another, making her way towards the hell she'd be stationed at for the next few weeks, learning as much as she could about the enemy for her shambled country.

But after only a few more meters, a wave of nausea washed over, her vision flickering black momentarily. The teen swayed on her feet and stumbled, her perception of balance temporarily thrown off by her dehydration. She struggled to regained her stature, and just as she thought it had all passed, her surroundings turned to darkness and all she could feel was the sensation of falling as she collapsed in the alien auburn land, sinking into unconsciousness.

Later--

Sakura's mind reopened to the outside world, her recovering senses a fuzzy mess. Instantly, she was aware of a dry ache in the back of her throat, as if a piece of sand paper had been lodged in her windpipe. She immediately began to cough violently and she shot up swiftly, her head swimming with stars. A protective hand pressed itself into her back, holding her in a slouched over position as she heaved dryly. When her stomach stopped trying to repel something that wasn't there, she straightened up wearily, glancing back at the person that was helping support her.

A girl with pale blue eyes smiled, her light blonde ponytail falling around her shoulders. She was wearing a simple royal purple tank top with dark grey kapris and matching sandals. Her face was friendly enough, all her features turned up with the grand grin she had spread across her face, but the first think you learn in the army, is it's easy to lie.

"You had me worried there for a minute. I though you were gonna have a seizure or something." the girl breathed, sounding relieved. Sakura didn't respond, instead examining the room she was residing in. It wasn't the biggest space she had ever seen, but it also wasn't as small as most back home. It was a single hospital dorm, the walls a blinding bleached white, which matched the concrete counters and stained oak cabinets built into the walls. She was sitting in one of the two beds, the other neatly made with pressed sheets and fluffed pillows, while her blankets were twisted in and out, winding around her body due to what must've been her tossing and turning.

She turned back to the girl at her bedside and inhaled slowly.

"Who are you?" she asked, her voice hoarse. The blonde teen grinned softly.

"My name's Ino Yamanaka, and I'm a part-time trainee here at the hospital."

she answered. Sakura dipped her head in acknowledgment, making a mental notice to check if she was on the list General Howard had given her.

"Where am I?" Sakura wondered aloud, watching Ino dozily.

"You're in the medical center, right in the middle of Konaha's Recruit Camp." Ino answered. "Some of our patrolmen found you half-buried in the sand, passed out from dehydration. You've been unconscious for almost six hours." she explained.

Sakura sighed and furrowed her brow. Was this where she was supposed

to be? What other recruit camp could be near the place she had collapsed at then the one she was looking for in the first place?

"Is this the Thunder unit?" the pinkette questioned - it was the name of the specified training grounds she was ordered to register at. Ino nodded, her hair bouncing merrily along with the exaggerated movement.

"You betcha!" she exclaimed, her cheeriness making Sakura want to gag.

This Konahaian was putting on a great show, pretending that people like her

hadn't been killing off innocent Sound citizens for years on end.

The door swung open and a woman strode into the room, her heels clicking loudly on the polished floor and her shoulder length black hair swinging with her movements. She had a clipboard in her hands and her gaze skimming the words printed on the page as she walked. She expertly dodging equipment carts and stools without visibly looking up from her work. Ino immediately straightened up in her seat, her eyes widening.

"L-lady Shizune!!" she gasped. The doctor's eyes flickered to the teen and she flashed a swift smile before returning her attention to the board.

"Suffering from dehydration, found unconscious in the desert a mile and a

half from camp, alone, no ID…well, you're certainly in a predicament, aren't

you?" the medic asked, glancing up from apparently Sakura's medical chart. The teen nodded, pulling on a confused mask, playing the role everyone here seemed to be following.

"I-I ran out of water and a-after running for s-so long…I just c-couldn't go on

anymore." she explained in a raspy, shaky voice. Shizune nodded gently in reply, her midnight eyes glimmering with sympathy. Her gaze turned to the blonde at Sakura's side.

"Ino, could you please get our guest a glass of water?" she asked,

motioning towards the gleaming steel sink embedded in one of the cement

counter tops. The purple-clad teen scrambled hurriedly over to the sink, snatching a small, crystal glass cup out of the cupboard. Shizune fell onto the chair Ino had been occupying, the wood groaning from the sudden force of weight. She pulled her stethoscope from around her neck and stuffed the small light grey bulbs in her ears. "Lean forward please."

Sakura complied and she felt the ice cold circle of metal press softly into her back, above the middle of her left lung.

"Breathe deeply." Shizune instructed, and listened carefully as Sakura filled her lungs to the brim with wonderfully crisp air, untainted with sand and debris. Ino returned, handing the pinkette a generous glass of water. Sakura sucked it down quickly, the cool liquid soothing the dull throbs pounding in her throat. Shizune sighed and leaned back, tugging the stethoscope down around her neck.

"Your airways have been cleared of the sand you had inhaled in the seven minutes you were exposed to the immense levels of grit. You shouldn't be having any more problems breathing and that cough will disappear soon. I'll just go cross your name off the active list and then you'll be discharged to the registration center." the raven-haired medic explained, jotting down a few notes on her clipboard. "Next time, you would benefit by bringing an extra flask if you plan on walking through Valley Desert alone. You're lucky someone found you, otherwise you wouldn't have lasted much longer, especially once night fell."

Ino nodded her agreement with a grimace. "During the day it's hot as the deepest pit of hell, but at night…" she shuddered. "It's worse then swimming in a sub-artic lake." Sakura groaned inwardly - what kind hell had she been sucked into?

"Ino, I want you to escort her to the center across campus, and help get everything situated afterwards, ok?" the physician ordered, tearing a small slip of paper off her board and handing it to the teen beside her. Said girl bowed her head in comply.

"Of course Doctor Shizune." Ino answered, smiling at the elder female kindly as she exited the room. The door clicked softly shut and Ino turned back, her childish grin again donning her face. "Well, we'd better get you over to the administration office, so we can get you signed up and everything." she said, motioning towards the door. Sakura nodded in agreement; yes, it was due time to get this show on the road already.

Sakura slid out of bed and her bare feet hit the wood planks of the floor with a muffled thump. She slipped into her combat boots near the footboard and followed the blonde out of her hospital room into a long, vacant hallway. As they walked to what Sakura could only assume was the entrance/exit, they passed many more chambers similar to the one Sakura had been placed in, some containing figures, others pressed and orderly, awaiting sick or injured soldiers to come and ruin the image.

"This is the main infirmary in the Thunder Unit's, with two others posted at the west and east sides of the campground. They only have one room each, and are used only in cases of major illness where the patient needs to be under quarantine." Ino advocated, waving to various warriors either being checked out or waiting to be.

"The hospital is in the northern part and the center for recruits is in the northwestern most corner, only a short walk away really. We'll sort everything out there." Ino suddenly stopped short and whipped around, showing an incredible amount of speed.

"You are a new recruit, aren't you?" she asked, her eyes narrowing slightly. Sakura smirked inwardly; took 'em quite awhile to become suspicious…odd for such merciless destroyers. She had to give it to them, they really knew how to act.

"Of course I am. I was on my way here when I ran out of water. It was only a short while later that my body just kinda…gave out on me." the rose-haired girl explained, her voice sounding deflated and worn, getting her the desired effect. Ino's hardened eyes softened, and a small, sympathetic smile spread across her lips.

"That must've been horrible…I'm sorry I doubted you. It's just…with the war and…well, you know the story, it's just not that easy to trust outsiders so much these days." the blonde apologized, starting up her moderate walk again. Sakura smiled understandingly, but on the inside, she was rolling her eyes indignantly.

How long are they planning on keeping this nice act up?

They stepped into the lobby, its gleaming white-tiled floors shining from a recent mop. Ino pushed the heavy metal-framed door open and both girls were met by a gust of dry heat, dust billowing up in their faces. As they emerged from the cleanliness of the clinic, the blistering heat only brought back the soreness Sakura had gotten over just a few minutes ago.

"This way." Ino called, making her way across a deserted parade ground toward a small, wooden structure, which could only be assumed to be the Recruit Center Doctor Shizune had been talking about.

Ino quickly scaled the few steps up onto the creaky veranda and pulled open the screened door, tilting her head for Sakura to go in ahead of her. The pinkette reacted tentatively; from here on out, she was undercover, with no where and no way to back out safely.


A/N - Alright, new story! Just to answer some questions that might be asked, this war is in modern day times, but where, I do not know. =D Somewhere hot and desert-like. Yes, Sakura isn't the nicest thinker about the people of Konaha, but hey, it's a war story. Now, the questions I won't answer: which side is the good one, and what happened to start this whole thing? These will be answered…well, later.

Kyubbi-Kitsune

Next Chapter: Say Hello

"Wait until you meet our Lieutenant…he something words just can't describe."