Sakura glanced over her shoulder at the orange orb that was just peeking over the horizon. She and Hidan were in hiding near the entrance gate to Konoha, waiting on Deidara's signal. He had to get to the opposite side of the village, where he planned to set off a bomb. Sakura was hoping that the distraction and panic would provide a good enough opportunity for her, Hidan and Itachi to infiltrate. Deidara's explosions were to be littered across the village. The ensuing entropy should give Itachi ample cover to reach the tower where the elders were. Sakura knew Tsunade wouldn't stay, though. The old woman would no doubt plunge into the middle of the chaos. Sakura was betting on it, at least.
"Get ready. I'm sure they've prepared themselves for some sort of attack, by now." Sakura straightened up, her eyes focused on the entry gates of the village. The sharp, metallic sound of Hidan drawing his scythe cut through the air, sending a shiver down Sakura's spine. She was ready, maybe even more than that. As a girl, she'd been taught under a man who lectured against pursuing vengeance. Those words had been less for her and more for Sasuke, at that time, but she knew that they applied to her now, as well. Where she stood was so very different from back then, and she no longer looked through rose-tinted glasses. There were no more of those shiny excuses, lies, or praises. It was reality, and it was not what little girls thought it was.
A deafening sound boomed through the air, along with the sound of wooden foundations cracking and breaking. The explosion shook the ground, even where she and Hidan were standing. With the vibration against the soles of her feet, Sakura looked up towards the village, where she could hear the panicked cries of villagers.
It was too easy. The village guards must have rushed off to help those who were near the explosions. Despite the lack of a greeting, Sakura didn't doubt that several jounin were on their way to guard the entrance. Unfortunately, they were a little too late.
Once inside, she and Hidan went in separate directions. Itachi was surely in the village now, too, hunting down Naruto. All around her there were civilians darting about, rushing to get inside of homes or buildings like they were instructed to do. A second explosion wracked the ground beneath Sakura, and she had to stop to keep her balance. Several people fell, and somewhere there was a child screaming. Sakura had no business with the civilians, however, and thus she left them be. Hidan could do what he wanted with them, if they got in his way.
Around her, Sakura could hear the voices of men beginning to shout orders. So, they'd finally decided to show up? She wondered how many enemies they suspected of being in the village, or if they'd already figured it out. She had her own orders in breaking down the barriers and strength of Konoha. But, Sakura had personal orders that she planned to carry out, and that included—
There was a change in the air that surrounded Sakura. Electricity crackled through it, making goosebumps rise on her flesh. It was a split-second decision that had two very different outcomes. Sakura felt her heart lurch forward as she came to a grinding halt, her body twisting in the air as she dodged the fatal blow that had aimed for her back. The electric crackle sizzled beside her ear, far too close for comfort.
When Sakura landed again, it wasn't unscathed. Her ear was ringing so loudly that she feared it might be all she'd ever hear again. Her arm was also numb, burned where the Chidori had gotten so close to her skin. She raised her hand to touch her injured arm, where a green glow began to emanate from her fingers and spread across the expanse of injured skin. As she did, she looked out from beneath her lashes at her attacker. He, too, stood still, watching her in return. Sakura wanted him to move, to fight, but he didn't, just like she expected.
"Why?" Kakashi's voice was old, much older than he was.
Sakura laughed once before she spoke, and she didn't miss the way it made Kakashi narrow his eyes. "I'm not the one you thought you'd have to fight, am I, Kakashi?" It felt strange to say his name without the addition of "sensei" following it. Had she spoken that title, she was sure she'd have thrown up. Kakashi didn't deserve the title, not for her. What had he taught her, aside from how to run to someone else?
"You let yourself sink into vengeance, Sakura. You had so much potential, but you followed the same path that Sasuke—"
Sakura slammed her fist straight into the ground, shattering it and forcing Kakashi to get out of the way before he got crushed. "Don't you ever say his name! How dare you compare him to me!" Sakura's expression pulled into a snarl. "How would you have ever known how much potential I had?! All you ever paid any attention to was them! You taught them everything, but you never once gave me the same. You left me to fend for myself because you didn't think I could ever be anything." Sakura clenched her hands around a kunai and lunged forward, rage tinting her vision.
Sakura had learned a lot from people who were not Kakashi. She'd gained immense strength and chakra control from Tsunade. She'd learned how to be fast, agile and to plan each step before she took it from Chiyo. She'd learned her medic ninjutsu alongside Shizune. What she had gotten from Kakashi, however, was a determination to never leave things unfinished.
The kunai tore into Kakashi's left shoulder and sent blood splattering Sakura's skin. The wound wasn't severe enough to kill, but it was satisfying all the same. Kakashi gripped Sakura's wrist and, still in the air, drove his knee into her abdomen. She coughed violently, but it was a dry cough without any blood. Her elbow cracked down on Kakashi's chest to give her the momentum she needed to push off and away from him. When they landed, both were dripping blood. Sakura glanced at where her hand was stained red. A wicked smile lifted her lips. "Are you going easy because you pity me, Kakashi? I'm not the same pitiful little girl I once was."
Kakashi looked at her, and she noticed blood also dripping from his closed eye. He must have been assisting near the explosions before he had come to apprehend her, she realized. His chakra was already suffering. "No, you aren't." he told her, his shoulders sagging and his voice heavy with failure. Sakura moved, and Kakashi didn't.
Kakashi had let Sakura do it. She knew he did, and she always would know. When the kunai tore open his throat, she stared him in the eyes, even when he no longer stared back. Blood pooled around his neck and head on the ground, and Sakura left the kunai there. She was still for a moment, looking down at the body of a man she had wished so desperately to impress. As a girl, she'd been certain nothing could ever kill Kakashi. Up until she saw the tiredness in his eyes for the first time.
From deeper into the village came the deranged laughter that still sent a chill down Sakura's back, regardless if she was on Hidan's side or not. Another explosion tore through the ground and air, prompting Sakura to dig her heels into the dirt to stay steady. Already, she could see fire and smoke rising from rooftops. Before the day was over, this village would be ash in Sakura's palm.
Sakura trusted Itachi to have already taken care of his part in murdering the elders; if Tsunade wasn't there, she must already be in the village. Sakura kept moving, her gaze hard and her hands carelessly getting rid of any ninja who dared oppose her. Faces that Sakura couldn't put names to were falling around her, and her skin and clothes steadily grew redder. It was only when one, familiar face caught her attention did she stop. The green robe and long blonde hair made something pulse in Sakura's blood.
"You," Tsunade said, her eyes wide and disbelieving. "I told them not to kill you. I told them to bring you back. I thought you were only misguided! Do you have any idea what you're starting?!"
"You shouldn't be so weak-willed. You've always been too fast to forgive and let things go. Maybe if you had sent someone else, someone to kill me instead, your village wouldn't be in ruins." Sakura faced Tsunade. "A Hokage has many duties, and keeping her villagers safe is one of them. Keeping the girls safe, keeping the children safe…instead you just drink away in that tower so you can forget your own memories. What about those of us who can't forget, Tsunade?" Sakura was walking, now, approaching Tsunade, but she didn't know what she'd do when she got there. She wasn't stupid enough to challenge Tsunade, but she wanted the woman to listen. Before she could get any closer, though, she was stopped by a ninja stepping in front of the Hokage, and it wasn't just any ninja.
"Sakura-chan," Naruto whispered, his voice cracking. His eyes scrutinized her and disgust soon twisted his mouth.
Sakura stiffened, outraged by the nickname. "Shut up," she hissed, "you don't get to call me that. Not after everything that happened."
Naruto clenched his fists, anger now beginning to leak into his eyes alongside disgust. "Look at yourself! You aren't the only one who had a hard life, but you don't see me running to the Akatsuki! They killed Gaara, they've tried to kill people we love!"
The air in Sakura's lungs was turning into smoke. "If you knew pain," she had to stop to swallow, "you wouldn't inflict it on anyone else. You would have helped me, but instead you wanted to join in like it was all a joke, you let Sasuke do what he wanted. You really were a monster, Naruto."
Naruto recoiled as if her words were real weapons. "I'm not the one covered in blood." Naruto grit his teeth and pointed an accusatory finger at his old friend. "Is that it? You're just going to kill me?"
Sakura flipped the flap of her pouch open and took out a kunai that had a bomb tag on it. Before she threw it, she smirked at Naruto. "No, but I'm not going to stop it." With the kunai thrown, Sakura jumped back out of the reach of the explosion and any debris it stirred up. She wouldn't challenge Naruto with his endless chakra supply. Itachi was far more prepared and capable of subduing that than she was, and she would gladly let him.
The village was collapsing. It was burnt, broken and bloodied. Sakura had made almost a full circle around it when she caught sight of a young, pretty, familiar face. Sakura's heart seemed to shudder inside of her chest. Without hesitance, Sakura sent a kunai rocketing towards Ino's flawless face, watching as the girl's head snapped to the side. When Ino turned to face her assaulter, there was a thin strip of blood on her cheek, close to her eye. "You filthy traitor," Ino hissed, once she recognized the ninja before her.
Sakura smirked, impossibly thrilled. Ino was a fine combatant, but her head was clouded with judgment that hindered her. Ino's views of Sakura were of a young, helpless girl, and not of a woman who was a dangerous rogue. The Yamanaka threw an uppercut at Sakura, her hands reaching and clawing as she struggled to land a hit on Sakura. Fists battered and bruised against soft skin as they tore at one another, breathing heavily, and struggling to stay just one step ahead.
"Is that all you've got?" Ino finally asked, standing with shaky knees while Sakura waited a few feet away, appearing unshaken despite the wounds on her body. "We were better off without you. None of us needed you," Ino snapped.
"Sasuke did," Sakura snapped, matter-of-factly, as if it didn't faze her to say it.
Ino's mouth twisted into an ugly sneer, and she went to take a step forward, her hand outreached for Sakura's neck. When her foot landed on the ground again, it collapsed beneath Ino's weight, causing her to stumble. Ino choked and her hands shot to her neck, clawing at it in a panic. Wide, horrified blue eyes looked up, misty and unfocused. "Wh–what did…" Ino's raspy voice trailed off when blood began to trickle from her lips, Sakura watched as the blonde wretched.
Calm, slow footsteps brought Sakura close to Ino, where she knelt and brushed the pad of her thumb against the cut on Ino's face. "It's such an old trick, Yamanaka. And you called yourself a medic nin," Sakura whispered, standing up again when Ino tried to grab at her. Without anything to hold onto, Ino collapsed, lying in the dirt as her throat closed and slowly suffocated her. Sakura watched the entire ordeal, until she was certain the tormentor was dead. Only then did she leave. All around there were broken, burning buildings, and debris strewn across the roads along with bodies. Some wore normal clothes; others were clad in uniform.
Sakura was much slower now, injured and exhausted while traveling back through the village. There wasn't a vestige of regret within her, only a deep satisfaction and a flicker of hope. Stepping over askew limbs, there was a flash of bright green that would have been impossible to ignore. Sakura let her gaze trail from the arm and up, where a young face rested on the ground. Sakura was surprised when she stopped.
Lee's eyes were closed, but his chest moved faintly as he breathed. "Lee…" Sakura whispered, crouching down beside the prone body of the boy. He must have fought so hard, almost nothing ever put him down. The green fabric was soft against Sakura's fingers when she touched Lee. She swallowed, focusing the healing chakra into him to stabilize his breathing. She didn't stick around after, only giving enough to promise a fighting chance. If Lee could get out alive, that was on him. "Be better than them, Lee. I know you are."
Sakura was running, then. She was running and no longer looking, only focusing on getting back to her allies and assuring their goal had been completed. Even when her lungs felt like hot coals in her chest, Sakura continued running until she saw a flash of white. "Deidara!"
The man on the bird turned his head when he heard the familiar voice cry his name. Blood leaked down the clay, where Naruto's unconscious body was tossed over it like he was a rag. He knelt and held his hand out, and Sakura reached out to grasp it tight in her own. Her weight was easily lifted onto the bird so that Deidara could wrap an arm around her waist, his face now buried in her hair.
The bird began to move, rising upwards with the help of the cold wind now blowing leaves about the roads. "The elders, are they…?" Sakura watched as Deidara nodded. "Tsunade?"
"She's dead. She was trying to keep everyone in the village alive, and it was too much. She couldn't keep up with three of us bearing down." Deidara's voice was weary, but his eyes glimmered with unspoken pride. "Sakura, this is the first fight of a war, un. I can't promise your safety. Are you sure you can do this?"
Sakura kissed him. It wasn't a gentle kiss, it was rough and fast, as if she were afraid she wouldn't get the chance to kiss him ever again. "I know what we started," she whispered, sitting back on her heels now to take some of the pressure off her protesting muscles.
The once pristine, white wings of the clay bird were stained red with blood, some old and some fresh. The ugly wound in Naruto's chest was still trickling blood. Though, Sakura had stopped most of the bleeding to keep him alive until the extraction could be performed. Beside her, she felt Deidara rest a hand on her thigh, which was bloody, but it didn't seem to bother him.
When Sakura raised her head, she looked out over the land that she was flying away from. Where broken buildings were shrinking into the distance, and pillars of smoke rose into the air in thick, black haze. But now, there were no screams. It was silent. Anyone left alive in the wreckage who was still capable of screaming would only choke on smoke and memories. Pink strands of hair blew about Sakura's face, but she didn't brush them back, she would only smear the blood on her hands.
"It's over," Deidara told her, glancing back at the destruction that still simmered. He didn't doubt that retaliation would follow, once the other villages caught wind. With the final Jinchūriki within their grasp now, though, it wouldn't matter. "Do you regret anything, un?"
Sakura stared, silent, the blood of people who had once meant so much to her now drying on her skin. Her fingers clenched around a kunai that wasn't there and faint screams were ringing in her ears. They were dead, and the dead couldn't hurt anyone again. With that imaginary kunai in her hand, Sakura had severed her past, and she thought that the future looked quite bright.
"Not a damn thing."
Inb4 people complain about Sakura being OP: girl was the second coming of Tsunade. Also, it's fanfiction, if people can write MPREG without explanation I can totally write Sakura being a badass. Plus, "plot armor" was literally the whole of the canon Naruto storyline, almost.
Aaaand we're back again, the second time finishing this fic! I altered my original idea a bit because I disliked the entire idea I'd written. This fic took me a long time to rewrite and although I'm still bitter towards it, I know it's better than the original and I can at least be happy with that. Hopefully some of you also are happy with this rewrite! (Or, for those of you just discovering, I hope you enjoyed!)