Without Sasuke

Chapter 41

A jolt of electricity was all the fish needed for it to start flopping again, somehow managing to flop back into the river as the fisherman sitting there sighed at the loss of his most recent catch.

"How long are you going to keep doing that?" Came a voice as the fisherman glanced upwards to catch sight of the Godaime Hokage looming over him and his companion.

"You've already learnt that."

"As many times as it takes for me to resuscitate something without fail."

"It doesn't work that way, Sakura." Said the Godaime, her eyes fixed on her apprentice.

"I know." Came the reply.

Haruno Sakura looked at the ground, one particular face dominating her thoughts.

She knew Tsunade was right.

Resuscitation couldn't be a guaranteed thing.

There were a lot of conditions, for resuscitation, too many for Sakura's liking, yet she knew, that to go further into this, would be stepping into territory only Orochimaru had gone so far.

A fish was easy, as it hadn't been dealt any fatal blows, nor were missing any vital organs, or parts of them.

A person who had been in a battle, was much more complicated and sometimes, there was no chance of resuscitation.

After all, it was only restarting the heart that she was doing, not giving the dead, life.

She turned to her master, trying to find the words to explain that all she wanted to be was fluent enough that if she was in time, then it would only take one try from her, to resuscitate anyone.

She wanted to be fluent enough in every single medic technique, just in case, just in case something happened to someone she loved.

Sakura knew, that she wouldn't be able to face herself, if she wasn't able to prevent something she knew she was capable of.

"I know that not everyone can be saved. It's just that, I want to be able to do it, if there is the slightest chance."

She said, hoping that Tsunade got the message she was trying to convey.

Tsunade, in the meantime, saw the thoughts flit across Sakura's face and knew exactly what her apprentice was feeling that very moment.

Tsunade, had felt that exact same thing when she had lost Nawaki.

Much like Sakura, she had drove herself to exhaustion, learning, practicing, refining what techniques there were, in the very same hopes Sakura had.

But, she had learnt that sometimes, no matter how good you were, there was simply no chance, when Dan had died.

But this was Naruto they were talking about.

Energetic, smart, and tough.

Even without the Kyuubi to help and heal his wounds, the brat was strong enough to outlast many of the strongest nin in the whole of the Elemental Nations.

Tsunade looked Sakura in her green emerald orbs, when she noticed the flicker of focus onto something or someone that stood behind her.

The widening of her apprentice's pupils, along with the look of shock horror on Sakura's face immediately told Tsunade that something was very wrong.

The Godaime Hokage pivoted on her foot, propelling herself towards Sakura, trying to get away from any would be attackers.

But it took her half a second to lay eyes on what Sakura had seen a few seconds earlier.

A bloodied, and barely alive, Uzumaki Naruto.

"Gomen, Baachan." Was all the boy was able to utter before his lids closed and he fell forward, limp, all strength gone from his body.

Tsunade's mind screamed at her, urging her to rush towards him and catch him before he fell, but she was in mid-air, mid motion, and she knew she couldn't rush to him as fast as she wanted to.

Luckily for her, she had an apprentice on hand, one that dearly loved the boy in question, and she was there before Tsunade could land.

"Sakura." She called as she touched down, briefly acknowledging the nod her apprentice gave before she vanished from her spot.

Tsunade dashed off as well, as fast as she could go, taking solace in the minute knowledge that with Sakura's speed, they would be at the hospital already.

All she could do now, was to run, and hope that she made it in time, for when she was needed.

X—X—X—X—X

Senju Tsunade burst into the surgical room mere minutes after Naruto had been rushed in.

"Get me his file."

"He doesn't have one."

Tsunade whipped her head around at Sakura, who had been the one to reply.

"What do you mean he doesn't have one?"

"He's never been sick in his life."

The Kyuubi.

It made sense.

Moving over to the table, Tsunade took stock of the situation before diving in, her hands covered in a green glow as she scanned his entire body for anything that Sakura might have missed.

"No organ damage. But he's losing blood bad."

Sakura nodded, her eyes determined and solely focused on the task at hand.

Saving the love of her life.

"Transfusion is on the way, but his arm is bad. We'll need to surgically reattach tendons once we've stopped the bleeding."

The wheels in Tsunade's head turned as she soaked in the information she had gained and the information Sakura had given her.

The Kyuubi was a Kami given defense against all sicknesses, and a built in Regen of the Gods.

It was how Naruto had prevented being in the hospital for more than a day at a stretch.

Yet, somehow, for some reason, it wasn't healing him this time.

Tsunade needed to know why.

It was clearly still sealed in him, or else his vitals would have lowered, and he would have died.

No one had survived a Bijuu being unsealed from them, and Naruto would be no different.

That meant, for some reason, the Kyuubi's chakra wasn't merging with his at all.

Snapping her attention to an ANBU member that stood nearby, she barked out orders.

She needed to figure out what else was going on inside his body.

And for that, she'd need Hyuuga Hiashi's All Seeing Eyes.

X—X—X—X—X

A knock on her door brought Tsunade out of her thoughts, just as Sakura walked in, obviously tired.

"How is he?" asked the Godaime as the younger medic nin flopped on to the sofa.

"He's okay, we managed to stop the bleeding, but he's still lost a lot of blood. He's asleep for now."

"His arm?"

Sakura grimaced.

"It's bad. It's functional, but barely. He needs to get the Kyuubi back if he wants to use it again, freely."

Tsunade sighed as she downed another saucer of sake.

"Any word from Ero-sennin?"

There it was.

The dreaded question.

The one question she had hoped and wished that Sakura wouldn't ask.

Tsunade's voice broke.

Tears she had barricaded falling down in streams.

The pain she had drowned in bottles of sake, welling up in her chest and the sobs broke out.

Sakura needed no further words as she stood up and crossed the room in seconds, enveloping the now wailing Sannin in a hug.

No words needed to be spoken.

Sakura knew, tears of her own streaming down her cheeks as she thought of the happy go lucky pervert that had taught her.

One of the three men that were responsible for forging her into the nin she was today.

The father figure that had watched over her and Naruto as they had trained and traveled, the past two years.

Her heart leapt out to her boyfriend, who was currently lying asleep, in a bed not too far from here.

Mentally noting that the anesthetics would keep him asleep for a good two more hours, Haruno Sakura stayed with her current mentor, offering the grieving Godaime the comfort and support she needed.

After all, right now, Tsunade needed her more than Naruto did.

X—X—X—X—X

Hatake Kakashi sat on the window sill to his student's room.

His lone eye focused on the sleeping figure before him.

There had been many a time when Kakashi had had to bring Naruto to the hospital, mainly because of chakra exhaustion.

But all the boy had needed then, was at most a day, to recover and bounce back on his feet.

Even after the Shukaku incident, it had taken Naruto just a day.

It scared Kakashi, to see the student he had come to love like this, out of surgery, his arm more or less gone.

"Go get some sleep, Kakashi."

Tsunade's voice came from the door, the woman standing there, door slightly ajar as she gazed down at the sleeping form much like he had.

"With all due respect, Godaime-sama, I think you need sleep more than I do."

Tsunade scoffed audibly, before her eyes softened.

She knew what he was feeling.

She somehow felt the burden on her shoulders increase too.

"Kakashi."

Her eyes meeting with the Jounin's, the message clearly communicated between them.

"We have a meeting with the council tomorrow morning. Don't be late."

The Hokage said no more, closing the door behind her as she left to get some Sake, and to think about her next move.

X—X—X—X—X

Uzumaki Naruto shot up, awake, the sun gleaming in his eyes, only to hiss in pain and lie back down.

"Careful, Naruto-kun. Your arm's hurt badly."

The blond boy looked to his side and at his girlfriend, his eyes watering at the sight of the girl he had missed the most.

"I'm sorry." He whispered as Sakura climbed onto his bed, gathering him into her arms much like she had done the previous night with Tsunade.

"It's okay."

She whispered back, as she rubbed his back, holding him close to her.

"Let it all out, Naruto-kun, let it all out."

The memories rushed back, the pain fresh in his mind and his heart.

Breaking whatever barriers he had, whatever walls the events of the past few days had worn away, the anguish rushed out of him, his body wracked in slightly audible sobs.

Sakura felt her heart clench along with his.

Though she had mourned enough, with both Tsunade, and at home, with her mother.

Sakura felt everything rise up once again, at the sight of how emotionally devastated her boyfriend was.

She mentally steeled herself, not against her tears and her loss, but against the future.

One of their strongest nin had sacrificed himself for not only the future of their village, but the future of the entire Elemental Nations.

The future, being them.

Her, Naruto, and the rest of the new generation of Nin.

And all of them would have to kick it up a few notches, if they wanted to be worth such sacrifice.

Outside the room that both Sakura and Naruto were occupying, similar thoughts were shared amongst three other nin.

Hyuuga Hinata, her Byakugan active, was in tears.

She had never ever expected to see the boy she had fallen in love with, in such a state, both physically and emotionally.

It hurt her deep inside, to know that he was hurt.

And it also, hurt her, to know that it wasn't her that was in there.

That it was someone else, someone that was, even right now, there for him in every way that she could be.

Outside the hospital, watching Naruto's window, Inuzuka Kiba petted Akamaru as the big dog whimpered up at him, feeling all the emotions Naruto was pouring out.

Naruto was a good friend and it hurt both of them to hear him like that.

"Looks like we got to train harder, boy."

Said Kiba, lovingly ruffling the dog, which the dog replied with a quiet but affirmative woof.

Aburame Shino stood not too far away from the Inuzuka duo, himself lost in thought.

His Kikaichu spread in a wide area, he knew what exactly each and every one of them felt.

And he knew that he didn't like what they were feeling.

Adjusting his glasses onto the bridge of his nose, Shino concentrated on his senses.

His team mates were compromised emotionally, at least for a little while.

It was imperative, that he remain on his guard.

He didn't want himself, nor anyone else, to ever go through what Naruto was going through, ever again.

X—X—X—X—X

The morning began early for Tsunade.

To be completely honest, she hadn't slept well at all.

Her dreams had been plagued with his face and she had woken up many a time, calling his name, tears streaming down her face.

Memories of their genin years.

Times when he had called her a flat chested bimbo, even though she had punched him for saying it.

The times they had trained together.

Their Chuunin exams, to the time that they had fought Hanzo and gotten their title of the Sannin from him.

Tsunade knew that that was when they had drifted apart.

Jiraiya had gone after three kids in Ame, three kids who were now part of the Akatsuki, if not the people who had killed him at all.

Tsunade had simply let him go, just like she had let Orochimaru go do his experiments.

She had been so occupied with both Dan and Nawaki, along with her own medic nin stuff, that she had let them drift apart from each other.

And she had lost him, much like she had lost all the other precious people in life.

Jiraiya had always been the loyal one.

To both her and Konoha.

She had left, he hadn't.

He had kept in touch, kept tabs on her, and she hadn't done a single thing.

She hadn't even come back to Konoha for him.

And now that he was gone, it all came crashing down on her.

A knock on her door brought her out of her thoughts, Kakashi's voice coming from the other side.

"Hokage-sama."

Kakashi didn't wait for a reply before he spoke.

"With your permission, we'd like to go recover Jiraiya-sama's body for the funeral, Naruto-kun has marked the village for us on a map."

A body.

She had been so caught up in her grief that she hadn't even bothered to check for a body.

Admonishing herself one last time, the Godaime pulled herself up off of the floor, her mind set on what she had to do from now on.

"Go." She said, as she turned away from the door to go take a well needed bath.

Jiraiya had given his life for her and the village.

She would do his sacrifice injustice if she were to fail them now.

X—X—X—X—X

The council of Konoha sat in silence, as they waited for the Godaime to finally arrive.

Nara Shikaku, their resident thinker, sat in his seat, his head laid on the table, seemingly fast asleep, but in reality, deep in thought.

The Hokage was late.

Really late.

And nothing kept her from things she wanted to do.

Unless, it was really, really serious.

The doors to the council chambers opened, and Tsunade walked in.

She didn't look too good, her shoulders seemed heavy, her eyes drooped and red.

The way she held herself just before she slumped in to her chair told him that whatever was so urgent for her to call a meeting, was critical.

However, nothing prepared him for the announcement when it came.

"As of today, Jiraiya of the Sannin, is classified as Killed in Action."

X—X—X—X—X

The whole council was stunned.

Even Shikaku was sitting up, his eyes widened in disbelief.

Tsunade saw it clear in his eyes, as she saw it clear in many another.

Finding it hard to control her emotions, she spoke, her voice held firm yet with sadness.

"Kakashi has taken a team to recover his body now."

"How did it happen?" Asked Shikaku, his voice as light as a whisper.

"All we know is that they were ambushed. Naruto is in the hospital right now, undergoing treatment for his wounds."

"Are they bad?" asked Tsume, and Tsunade wasn't surprised she did.

Though feral, the Inuzuka were also affectionate towards those they favored, and it was apparent that the Matriarch favored the young boy.

"The Kyuubi was suppressed." Hiashi spoke up, having being consulted earlier. "And that has caused his rate of recovery to slow down massively."

"Suppressed?" Asked Inoichi, not being as knowledgeable as some others about the Bijuu.

"There are two ways in which a bijuu can be stopped. One is to seal them. The other is to suppress them." Stated Shikaku.

"Suppression only works on sealed Bijuu though, ones who are trying to manifest themselves from the host. Can be done either through a pair of Sharingan eyes, or specific seals."

"Uchiha Itachi then."

"Most likely." Came Shikaku's reply. "But I'd like to hear Naruto-kun's story first, Itachi alone could not have taken Jiraiya-sama out."

"Not yet." Cut in Tsunade, her post as head medical officer in all of the Konoha forces allowing her to reject things like this.

"The loss of his sensei is still fresh. We need to wait until he comes to us."

Shikaku nodded as turned his thoughts to a different topic.

"What about the funeral?"

Now it was Tsunade's turn to be caught off guard.

"What about it?" She asked, not sure where Shikaku was going with it.

"Do we want a public funeral? Or do we do it in private?"

"Jiraiya-sama deserves a public funeral, for all he's done for the village." Choza chipped in.

"But it would also tell them that there is something abound that is killing even our strongest nin." Added Inoichi.

"We will have to tell them sometime."

"I don't mind either way." Said Shikaku and everyone, for once, was surprised that Shikaku hadn't had a decision made.

"We honestly don't know how big this situation is, and who it involves. And with Jiraiya-sama's spy networks no longer usable, we can't find out either."

Nara Shikaku didn't ponder further on the subject, instead turning around to Tsunade with his thoughts on what the next course of action should be for the village.

"Hokage-sama, I suggest we request a meeting of the 5 Kages."

X—X—X—X—X

The funeral procession was held quick and fast, a wartime funeral.

It had been decided that the situation as well as the Akatsuki would remain a secret until the meeting of the five kages had been concluded and a course of action determined.

All the Shinobi attended the funeral, however.

The ones that knew Jiraiya personally, as well as the ones who had heard of his legend.

Senju Tsunade led the procession, dressed in black as the rest of them were, wondering if this was the same thing that had happened when her sensei had died.

Tsunade shook her head.

Her sensei had been the Hokage, loved by all, and she was sure that civilians had come as much as the Shinobi had.

The only difference was that the civilians didn't know Jiraiya was dead.

She was the first one to place flowers onto the casket, Hyuuga Hiashi the second.

One after the other, Shinobi and Council members came and left.

Flowers placed, words whispered, prayers offered.

Uzumaki Naruto stood as far back as he could the whole ceremony, his injured arm heavily bandaged.

He was the last one to offer his prayers to his deceased sensei, staying long after the ceremony had ended, his girlfriend ever present by his side.

Hatake Kakashi stood nearby, his eye constantly on his two students, knowing that it was them that would find this time the hardest.

Them who spent a year or more with the Sannin, close to if not always, in his presence.

When the trio of team 7 left the burial grounds, all three of them holding grief in their hearts, mourning the loss of the man in different ways, than the others.

It was Senju Tsunade, however, that fell asleep the last, a particular book in hand.

She had never ever read his books.

She had never ever tried.

She had always hated the fact that he was such a pervert, always peeking, always visiting the red light districts, even though she knew that they were his main source of information.

As she read the first few words of the Tale of the Utterly Gutsy Shinobi, a hint of a smile appeared on her face.

She knew she would miss him, if not the most, then one of the most.

But she had found something that connected her to him, and she vowed not to let that, nor the village go.

When she fell asleep, the Godaime fell asleep with a smile, a slight whisper of "Pervert" audible to whoever else was in the room.

X—X—X—X—X