~Chapter 17: A Teeny, Tiny, Little Problem~

Sakura looked at her burned hands, her insides were still on fire and she had trouble breathing, «If this is what happens with only a small shuriken, what will happen when it's an entire human body? »

Sakura was a bit afraid of the answer, but she needed to know.

«I won't lie to you, the last person that was heard doing this jutsu passed out on the battlefield. They were screaming in pain, tears staining their face and only agony covered their faces like a sheet. It lasted a few months, in and out of it. It took time before they got back in the game. »

«Did they regret going through with the jutsu? »

«No regrets what so ever. »

Sakura shook her hands slightly and repositioned herself in front of the shuriken. «Then let's do it again. »

Through the darkness, Sakura's bright green hands were the only sign of life. Calmness still dominated the night as nothing stirred, at the exception of the young kunoichi performing the jutsu over and over again. Silence enveloped the scene, broken only when Sakura murmured the name of the jutsu to unleash it.

Toby had remained speechless and kept his intent gaze on the young woman. He never corrected her; he never spoke words of encouragement, because there were no words to be said. A ninja willing to risk their lives to perform the Kousoku Sutamina could not be comforted by speech. In his mind, Tobi knew that the only way he could support Sakura was to keep a watchful eye on her.

Sakura tried a few more times before Tobi finally spoke, "That is enough Sakura."

Sakura's gaze tore away from the shuriken and settled on her new mentor with a frown on her face. He lifted his hand to stop her from speaking, "You trained enough for one night. Go to your room and rest. You have another long day waiting for you."

Sakura nodded and narrowed her eyes at the unanimated object. To her displeasure, she was still at the exact same spot she was when she first performed the Kousoku Sutamina. Stupid shuriken…It seems so long ago I was bringing giant fishes back to life and now I can't even remove the chakra from this puny weapon.

Sakura closed the heavy book and picked it up along with the shuriken as she got up from the floor. Bowing she thanked Tobi and headed back inside, the book and shuriken held closely to her chest. However, before she could walk though the threshold, Tobi called after her: "Meet me here, tonight, same time."

Sakura only looked back as she nodded in agreement. Not bothering to return all her other books to their original place on the shelves, Sakura made her way directly to the library's main doors. I'll put them back tomorrow, right now the only thing I want is to take a nice, long, hot shower and snuggle in my fluffy, comfy bed. She sent a quick glance at the clock: 2h05. Man, I only have a bit more than an hour before I meet with Hidan. Sakura's head fell as her eyes closed. This was definitely going to be a very, very, very long night indeed.

Sakura had used up so much of her chakra that she felt drained to the core. Her pace was slow though the dark corridors. The only noise that reached her ears was the echo of her healed boots against the hard floor and the sound of her thoughts spinning around in her mind. The only thing keeping me going is the though of a shower and sleep. She sent a quick glance to the cold floor of the hallway. I wouldn't mind just laying right here on the floor, but that would not be very subtle on my part. Sakura held her book and shuriken closer. I don't want the others to find out what I am doing, they will surely disapprove. No, this is my burden to bare, nobody else's. They have no need to get involve in this affair; this is between me and…HIM. Even if Tobi does know my little secret, I doubt he's the time to run and tell Uncle. Sakura's dried lips rose into a pleasant smile. I have nothing to worry about then.

Sakura had now reached her bedroom door and twisted the knob to reveal her new bedroom. A wave of tranquility washed over her as she walked in, silently closing the door behind her to avoid waking the others. I haven't been here for long, yet my room already feels like my own refuge from the world. The first thing she did was to hide her book and shuriken underneath a pile of clothing in her wardrobe. Grabbing a pair of black night shorts and a red thank top, she made her way to her bathroom, where she turned on the shower. Sakura leaned against the counter, while she waited for the water to warm up.

Oh! I almost forgot. I still haven't healed my other minor injuries. I probably should take care of them now. I wouldn't want a bunch of cuts and bruises, when I'm sure to have a bunch more after my training later today. Sakura looked down and her eyes widen in shock. After her training had ended, she had been so preoccupied with getting to her room that she had never though of her hands. Her once delicate, pale hands were now flaming red. Second degree burns replaced the young, stretchy skin the kunoichi had only hours ago. Sakura lifted one of her hands closer to her face so she could properly examine it. It is so strange. I know I have second degree burns, but they don't even hurt. Well, not anymore anyways. My whole body burned as I performed the jutsu, I suppose it is normal that I didn't notice my hands until now. Sakura joined her hands together and sent chakra to her injured fingers and wrists. The tissue slowly started healing, until the damaged cells were completely gone and a new layer of skin covered both her hands.

Sakura flexed her fingers and twisted her hands to test the new skin. Pretty good, if I may say so myself. She healed all her other injuries before leaning forward and testing the water with one of her fingertips. Perfect temperature. Sakura took off her clothes and walked into the shower. Her aching body welcomed the heat as her tensed muscles finally relaxed and her mind drifted into nothingness. She closed her eyes as thousands of water drops crashed against her bare skin. For a moment, the plains of her mind were clear of all thoughts, until they came rushing back.

Sakura sighed, A brief moment is better than no moment at all. She brought one of her hands close to her face once again and kept a deep gaze on it. I can only heal my hands so many times. I do not know how many training session I will need before I can successfully do the Kousoku Sutamina, but I do know it will take me some time. If my hands keep getting burned like they did tonight… Sakura clenched her hand into a fist. Healing them will become hander and scars will undoubtedly form. I'll be force to keep my cloves on at all times, even when I'm healing injuries. If I don't, the others will surely ask questions about them… Damn it! Sakura held her clenched hand close to her body, because she knew that she would punch a giant hole in the wall without hesitating.

After lingering in the shower for a little while longer, Sakura turned off the water and traded the comfort of the shower for that of her bed. She got dressed, brushed her hair and teeth and curled up in her black sheets. She hugged her pillow as she glanced at the clock. 2h45. I still have sometime before Hidan's ritual. I should try to get a bit of sleep, but the nightmares… Even with all the distance that separated Sakura from her former village, all the horrid memories of her past life were still fresh in her mind like it had just happened yesterday. Sakura would never admit it, but she was afraid to fall into a deep slumber. She knew all to well the horrors that awaited her, when she fell asleep. But the day had been long, her eyes were getting heavy and her breathing slowed. Her body fully relaxed into the soft mattress and her mind started drifting into unconsciousness.

However, a pulse of chakra shot through her mind and Sakura shot out from under the covers. Shika! She pushed the covers and sat cross-legged as her hand formed the tiger seal. The connection between the two was completed, when Sakura sent her own chakra pulse.


"Thank God Sakura. Are you all right?"

"I'm fine. How about you? I hope Tsunade hasn't been working you to hard to find me."

"I'm ok. Our search for you ended up lasting only a few days. Tsunade couldn't afford having all of us searching for you. Missions still kept pouring in and Tsunade knew that they had priority over one rogue ninja. So she called us back to Konoha and assigned us to our old duties. She still has Team 7 search for you however."

"That doesn't surprise me one bit. Kakashi and Karin almost discovered me at Mr. Liu's inn in Ame. If Itachi and Kisame hadn't arrived when they did, I would probably be in a cell back in Konoha back now."

"Remind me to thank them for saving my little sis, when I see them."

"I will. How did Gaara react to my defection?"

"Well you know Gaara, he's not the most expressive guy in the world. But I know that deep down; he wishes he had another choice. Temari and Kankuro were also upset about Tsunade's news."

"Even if they feel that way, Gaara will never make a decision that will endanger his village. He fought so hard to get where he is now. He certainly won't let someone like me jeopardize everything he worked for. Besides, Suna can't afford to have Konoha on their list of enemies right now. They have no other choice but to acknowledge Tsunade's request."

"Lucky for us, you were heading far away from Suna. Where are you know?"

"I'm at the Akatsuki's base and you won't believe everything that has happened to me."

"I leave you unsupervised for a few days and already you're in trouble. What did you do now Sakura?"

"Ha ha! Well for starters, I joined the Akatsuki. I already have my official robes and everything."

"Wow, my little, angelic sister has joined a gang of S-class criminals… I definitely need to have a drink after this. When did you become the rebel type, Saku?"

"From the moment I slash my headband with my kunai."

"Ah, I see. Anything else I should know?"

"Well, the head of the Akatsuki happens to be my uncle, I have three training periods every day, I am learning a deadly techniques that could end up killing me if my lack of sleep doesn't and I am part of the lost Senju Clan."

"Is that all?"

"Yup, that pretty much sums it up."

"I haven't really heard about the Senju clan, what are they like?

Sakura smiled. One of the advantages of the communication technique she developed with Shikamaru was that they could freely share their knowledge with each other. One could easily access the information banks of the other and Sakura left all of her knowledge on the Senju clan for Shikamaru to see.

"Very interesting. I had no clue such a strong clan existed. I'm feel privilege to know one of its' members."

"Actually you know two, Shika."

"Really? Who the other Senju?"


"That would explain her persistence in finding you. So not only do you know all of Konoha's secrets, but you're also part of one of the oldest and strongest clan.

"Yup, but Tsunade won't reveal such information to just anyone. As far as everyone knows, I am only hunted down simply because I abandoned the village. Is anyone aware of my new alliance yet?"

"If Tsunade knows, she didn't tell anyone. Word around the village is that Jiraya came to visit Tsunade, while we were searching for you. If anyone knows about the Akatsuki's new recruit, it would be Jiraya."

"I agree. He knows our organization like the back of his hand. Still…"

"Don't worry about it Saku. Even if Tsunade knows, she cannot do anything about it now. If she does tell one of Rookie 9, the news will spread across the village like a gust of wind. I'll let you know if I hear anything ok?"

"Thanks, Shika. I haven't been out of the base since I got here and I do not know when my uncle will let me come and go as I please."

"When you're good and ready I suppose."

"You're probably right. I'm sorry Shika, but I have to go. Hidan is probably waiting for me."

"Alright. Did you at least get a bit of sleep today?"

"Not really…"

"The nightmares again?"

"Ya. Even far away from Konoha, they still hunt me."

"Try not to think too much about them and get a couple of hours of sleep, ok? I wouldn't want you to collapse during your training."

"My teachers would probably kill me if I did. Ha ha. Take care, Shika. Miss you!"

"I will. Miss you too, Saku. We'll be in touch. Goodnight."


Sakura's eyes opened and her room came into view. She smiled to herself at the though of Shikamaru. I always feel better after I talk with Shika. I really miss him. I wonder if Uncle would let me visit him. Maybe we could meet somewhere outside of Ame, when he's on a mission or something. I'll have to ask Uncle about that, but that will have to wait for now… She got off her bed, stretched a bit and headed out the door to Hidan's room.

Meanwhile, in Hidan's room, the Jashinist was pondering on what to do. Damn it! Why the fuck can't I decide. It's not like this is a freaken difficult choice to make! Sakura's words rang through his head for the tenth time that night: "You know Hidan, I know you're whole "spilling my blood because I need to and because I love it" thing is kinda personal, but if you ever want some company, my door is just next to yours ok?" What the hell did she mean by that! Does she really want me to go or was she just being polite? Ggrrr! Why are woman so fucking complicated!

Hidan slam his fist down hard against his desk, "Fuck!" That's when a knock came from his door. Thank Jashin-sama I won't have to decide after all. Outside, Sakura heard a muffled "enter" and went into Hidan's room. She made sure the door was closed behind her before she took a few steps further into the room.

Blushing a bit, she managed a small smile, "Hi."

Hidan was speechless. He didn't believe she would actually return after the bloody demonstration of his ritual and the terrifying explanation of his life as a Jashin follower. He had to admit, this girl had guts. A few moments had passed and Sakura was still standing at the same spot with Hidan watching her with an intense gaze. What the hell is he looking at? Maybe he doesn't want me here. Maybe he want me to leave…

The Jashinist sighed and crossed his arms around his bare chest, "Are you waiting for a fucking invitation or did you simply walk into the wrong, fucking room? His words snapped Sakura out of her trance. She smiled at him as she made her way to his bed and sat on the comfy, barely used mattress.

Like the previous night, Hidan took out one of his kunai and started cutting himself across his arms and chest. He kept his back towards Sakura at all times, because he didn't want her to see the expression of pure pleasure on his face. He also bit his tongue to stop himself from screaming with excitement. From time to time, a little sigh of relief left his lips, but nothing more.

Eventually the ritual came to an end and Hidan turned around to face Sakura. Dhow the light was dim in Hidan's room; Sakura could still see the crimson liquid flowing out of his cuts and tainting the blade of the kunai. She got up from her spot on the bed and invited Hidan to take her place. Nodding, Hidan placed his kunai on the neighboring desk and sat with his legs dangling from the side of the bed, where Sakura had been only moments before. In silence, she leaned over him and started healing his cuts, going from the more severe to the less-fatal ones.

She narrowed her gaze at the wounds to keep her eyes from closing. She was exhausted. The day had been so long and so demanding that it took everything she had to stay awake. Every training session had pushed her to her limit, especially the Kousoku Sutamina. Just a bit longer, I'm almost done… There were only a few minor cuts left, but Sakura never got the chance to heal them. She had collapsed from exhaustion. Hidan eyes' widen before he reach out and grab her around the waist to keep her from hitting the floor.

Frowning he mumbled: "Stupid bitch, why did you have to go and push yourself over your limit?" He placed his second arm under her legs and lifted her as he got up. He gently placed her on one side of her bed and sat on the other, starring at her. He just couldn't figure her out. When she came in, it was fucking obvious that she was tired and that her chakra was low. But I never thought it was this fucking bad. Stupid woman… He looked her over once more. Sakura's breathing had slowed and she was now in a deep sleep. I'll let her rest here for tonight. Hidan laid down with his arms behind his head. She will just have to accept the fucking consequences of her mistake in the morning. He smirked. Fuck ya, I'm gonna have a lot of fun tomorrow.

Morning came a little too quickly for Sakura. She could already here Kisame in the hall shouting for everyone to get up. Snuggling her head even further into the soft pillow she mumbled: "5 more minutes…"

"As you wish, my dear…"

Sakura's eye began to twitch. Who the hell is in my room? She finally opened her eyes and the first thing she saw was her "pillow". A chest! A BARE chest! But, who's chest... She lifted her gaze and came face to face with Hidan's. Her eyes grew wide as three words came out of her mouth, "Oh…my…god…"

Hidan just stared at her with a calm expression and a huge smirk on his face. "Slept well?"

Sakura didn't wait any longer before pushing herself off of Hidan and rolling onto the bed. Wrapping her arms around her body in a protective manner, she looked at Hidan with horror written all over her face. "What…what did you? What did I…"

Hidan's smirk widen as he leaned closer to her. His gaze locked with hers as he gently caressed her face with one of her fingers. "I just wanted to thank you for last night Sakura. I'll never forget it."


"What's going on here?" said Kisame as he came bursting into Hidan's room. Sakura's eyes widen even more and a deep blush appeared across her face. Kisame stopped in his tracks and looked at the scene before him with a gawking expression. "Oh Pinky, what did you do?"

"I didn't do anything!" She narrowed her eyes at Hidan and pointed an accusing finger towards him, "It was him!"

Hidan kept his smirk as he revealed: "I wasn't the one who rolled onto you, while you were sleeping."

Sakura's hand dropped instantly. She crossed her arms and closed her eyes in an attempt to remain calm. Hidan is going to pay dearly for this. Kisame will never let me hear the end of it for as long as I live. "I was exhausted after last night. I am not responsible for my body's action, when I'm asleep."

Kisame leaned his head to the side as his eyes narrowed, "Exhausted? Don't tell me you and Hidan had…"

Sakura's eyes shot open and her hands clenched into fists, "We most certainly did NOT!"

Kisame shook his head in disapproval, "Ah Pinky, I thought you were better than that. Meeting Hidan at night, when everybody else is sleeping. You've been with us only for a short time and all ready you're sneaking around. Tsk, Tsk, Tsk."

"It's not what you think Kisame…"

Kisame smirked as he left the room, "I wonder what the other members will think about this, when I tell them what you have been up to."

Sakura reached out for him, "No, Kisame. Wait!" But it was too late; Kisame was already in the hall, shouting his new discovery to all the other members.

Sakura's head fell, "I'm doomed."

"That's what you get for being a stupid, dumb bitch."

Sakura lifted her gaze to Hidan, he was already out of bed and tying his Akatsuki robes around his waist. Confusing filled her voice as she asked, "What do you mean?"

When his robes were in place, Hidan walked around the bed and cupped her face in his hands, "Next time you come knocking on my door, make sure you're not fucking half dead." He leaned in at that moment and gently kissed Sakura's forehead before leaving his room.

Sakura just sat there on Hidan's bed, stunned. Her blush had returned and she brought one of her hands to her face. What did I get myself into?

Dear readers,

I am sorry I was abscent for so long. I was busy with school, work and football, but also I needed some time to think about the story. It's like a painter, sometimes he needs to step away from the painting to get the whole picture and that is what I did. Hopefully you'll except this chapter as my apology. Thank you for all your messages and for reading. I hope you enjoyed it! Take care guys,

~tainted cherry blossom~ P.S. I, tainted cherry blossom, do not own naruto, but I own the plot of this story as well as the title of this story.

P.S. To the two anonymous readers, thank you for informing me about the chapter 2.

P.. To those of you I haven't replied yet, I'll reply to you in the next chapter, because I couldn't send you a private message.