...and 6 months later... yeah no excuses. But I am sorry, I promise. Hope everyone is doing well, especially going through these holidays. Happy New Year! Okay, here you go.

Summary so far: After being told her 8-month relationship with her HS boyfriend was all a gimmick, and that her parents were filing for divorce, a distraught Sakura runs away on her school field trip. She enters a forrest said to be cursed, finds a hidden lake, and is then captured by odd looking men who take her to a run down castle-turned-compound where a sinister 'Master' is to make her his slave for life. Everything is wrong about him, from his red eyes to his inhuman speed but yet she feels a slight attraction to him while he begins to make her life miserable.

Chapter 7: Of Spice and Earth

Sakura stepped uncertainly into another dimly lit passageway that appeared identical to the previous ones. It had already been ten minutes, and from the look of it, she was no closer to getting back to her room. She finally stopped in frustration at the people who seemed to not have a grasp of the usefulness of a sign, or in the very least a map.

'Note to self: never assume you're going in the right direction when you're in uncharted territory.'

"Maybe I should go back and ask Suigetsu how to get there."

She spun on her heel and headed back, fairly confident she remembered the way this time. Sure enough, within just a few minutes, a familiar door slid into view. Without knocking, she twisted the handle and walked in. "Hey shark boy, how do you-"

The room was empty. Her eyebrows scrunched together, wondering where the strange guy went. "Great." She sighed and leaned against the door post. "Back to square one."

While silently forming a new plan of action, her emerald eyes absently roved over the room. Strange weapons hung against the walls in groups according to size and type, and a pile of old training equipment was pushed into one corner. Then an idea occurred to her.

Here was a newly inducted slave set on escaping by any means, and here you had an entire room of weapons ready for the taking. Sakura looked back into the hallway for any one roaming around. It was empty as well.

'Either this is a setup or my master isn't as sharp as he thinks.'

Nevertheless, her hand hesitated above a charcoal colored dagger. Then an image of the dead guard flashed across her eyes to only strengthen her resolve. 'Just take it!'

Before she could comprehend what she had done, the dagger was already tucked inside her kimono being held in place by the tightly wrapped rope tie. 'No one should notice it's missing. There's hundreds of them.'

A sudden pain in her chest made her gasp. She clutched at the fabric right above the area. It really wasn't that painful, just a point of pressure, just uncomfortable and rather startling. The sensation pulled again. Sakura then understood what was happening; understood Kabuto's words earlier. Sasuke- the Master- was summoning her.

'How would he know!'

Well, he wasn't actually summoning her to him, but urging her to get to the kitchens quickly. For some reason her mind was able to translate this.

"That's right, it's lunch time." After doing one last personal check to make sure the dagger was well hidden, she exited the room, shut the door softly and allowed the sensation in her chest to guide her. The thought of food made her queasy, although her last meal had been two days previous. Too much had happened in a short amount of time. She was exhausted.

It didn't take long to find the place, especially when the halls began giving off a mouth-watering aroma. Sakura headed down a small flight of stairs before turning left into an opened entryway into a busy kitchen.

High ceilings were the first thing she noticed. Two sets of four side-by-side stoves occupied the wall to her right and were currently being used by no more than twelve people skillfully maneuvering around each other. To her left was a large built-in pantry with a narrow door that probably led to some kind of wine cellar, and it too was currently being overrun by a horde of women grasping at various ingredients to prepare whatever was on the menu. In the middle of the floor stood two large rectangular wooden tables piled high with dozens of pots and pans, utensils, bowls, plates, and lots of food. Small wooden cages lined the back wall with several of them carrying live chickens, and Sakura lightly wondered if any of them witnessed her near escape earlier.

"What do we have here?!"

Sakura twisted to the right, startled by a loud high-pitched voice. It was a young woman, perhaps no more than 25, with long frazzled brown hair and a thin build. She had her hands set on her hips and her pale lips pressed into a thin line as she studied the new girl.

"You're Master-sama's new pet huh? He must have really taken pity on you."

"Excuse me?" Sakura expected insults from the higher ups, but not from those sharing the burden of servitude. Also, who refers to Sasuke as master-sama? Overkill much?

After scrutinizing every inch of Sakura, the woman straightened up to give her a most pretentious look. "I am Misha, your superior. While you are here and handling the Master-sama's meals, I will be instructing you on the proper ways of presenting the food, and the timeliness of transporting it."

A thin pink eyebrow rose in response to this. This woman took her job a little too seriously, and was rude to boot.

"Master-sama likes consistency and precision," she continued matter-of-factly, "and anyone who refuses to follow the rules will suffer serious consequences!"

By now, they had the attention of almost half of the nearest kitchen staff. A few girls with dirtied aprons and arms full of produce stopped to whisper amongst themselves and began to giggle and point at them. Misha turned to them with an awful glare. "What are you all laughing at, you filthy tramps!"

Her outburst drew more laughter until one of them replied, "Hey Misha, looks like you're not the favorite anymore!"

"Yeah!" Another chimed in. "You must've gotten so ugly, they had to replace you because the Master kept getting sick from looking at your face!"

A few others joined the group to be apart of the ridiculing. Sakura noticed Misha's hands balled into fists at her side as the anger in her face turned a deep red.

"Shut it you hags! I am not being replaced! Don't you have something better to do?!" Misha looked ready to pounce, leaving Sakura to wonder if she would have to step in or if she'd do nothing. Luckily, Misha made no advancements so her fellow kitchen maids slowly dispersed, still snickering amongst themselves. Sakura didn't miss the glances they threw her way in a mixture of curiosity and dislike.


Sakura flinched as Misha suddenly rounded on her, more than furious. Misha grasped her upper arm and began dragging her to the nearest table where a wooden tray filled with empty plates stood in a neat pattern.

"Don't think just because you're untouchable," Misha pointed hard at her, "that you're something special, because you're not. Everyone knows why he really picked you for himself." She spat, and before a counter response was made, she had turned to fill the plates. Sakura, a little more than pissed at the insinuation, crossed her arms in defense.

"And what's that suppose to mean?" She had had enough of this unprovoked animosity radiating off the brown haired girl. The issues she has had to deal with in merely a day were incomparable. Another problem like Misha didn't sit well with the waning patience and sanity of the freshly captured girl.

Misha smirked. "You looked the easiest."

'Sakura, don't lower yourself to her level. Don't be petty, you're better than this.' Her inner voice cut in when alerted by the rise in adrenaline and her muscles tensed for a fight. Her voice slightly shook while replying, "The easiest wha-!" A loud ding coming from an alarm cut her off. Misha rushed to pull a small pot of steamy liquid off the burner, then poured its contents into a small wooden bowl. She moved fast, grabbing and putting away various objects, clanging dishes around, moving swiftly around the other workers as if she'd been doing this for years. Sakura, arms still folded, watched her and waited to be given instructions despite yearning to kick her in the face.

Misha came back appearing more disheveled carrying a bunch of things in her arms. They flailed around the table, putting certain foods onto the tray, gingerly fingering them into position. "It's too late to explain all of this to you now. Master-sama's food should've been out 30 seconds ago!" She frantically stated.

Thinking 30 seconds was no big deal, Sakura rolled her eyes but kept her mouth shut. A moment later the wooden tray was being thrust into her hands, Misha was spewing a million instructions, and she was practically being pushed out.

"Go go go go!" Misha gestured frantically towards the stairs. "Don't you dare drop that tray!"

Misha's rude demand had Sakura biting down hard on her tongue, preventing any regrettable words from escaping her lips. But if looks could kill.

"She thinks I look easy? Yeah, because 'Master-sama' doesn't sound desperate." Sakura huffed once she was out of earshot. That girl reminded her of her snobby classmates back home. Just thinking about them shifted her mind to Yukio and her hands unknowingly clenched the tray.

"Don't, Sakura. Just... don't." She shook her head to get rid of the memories, but tears had already formed, and it took all her will to keep them from falling. Instead, she focused on the food laid so neatly on the tray. There were only two items: onigiri and sliced tomatoes. It smelled delicious, however, the scent did not penetrate enough to make her hungry.

Guided by the pulling sensation, the halls slipped beneath her feet up, left, right, right, left. The last left she took brought her to a door she's only seen once before. A flash of red flooded her eyes for a brief instant and she paused. 'That was only yesterday...' she thought. Adrenaline spiked. 'What if he...'

Of course he had no reason to attack this time. The bonding jutsu only needed to be performed once, she knew, but it didn't quell the rising fear. She tried to think of what she was suppose to do next, silently cursing herself for not paying closer attention to Misha's hastened instructions. If memory served her correct, she needed to knock twice. Balancing the tray on one hand, she raised the other but never got a chance to knock when the door flew open and she was face to face with her charming Master.

"You're late."

Sakura noticed her hand was still poised in the air to knock, and retreated it immediately to balance the tray. Sasuke studied her mixed expressions of fear, uncertainty, and irritation for a moment, slightly annoyed that anyone would allow that much to show. Such weakness. He turned in the room, leaving the door open for her to follow.

When his onyx eyes left her own, Sakura realized they had put her in a sort of trance. She mentally slapped herself. Of course she was attracted to him, but she wasn't about to let him know that. Hesitantly stepping inside the dark room, she had to bite on her already sore tongue to keep from throwing a sarcastic comment to his previous 'you're late' statement.

In the middle of the room stood a small plain table kept by a lone chair where common sense told the girl to place the tray. Fighting the will to slam it down, she presented his food. "Is that all?"

For being royally pissed, it was surprising that no expletives slipped into her question. Sasuke gave no answer or any indication that he would, but his eyes were intense on her as if he were expecting something.

"Well," she started, "if that's it then I'm just going to go now." The instant her body twisted to face the door, his immediately phased in front of it. Sakura took an automatic step back, heart racing. 'How does he keep doing that!'

He held out his hand and she stared at it quizzically. "Give it to me." His low command sent chills down her spine.

"G-give what to you?" Her eyes were snatched up in his again as she stuttered a response.

"Give it to me, Sakura." She didn't fail to notice how her name seemed to slip so easily off of his tongue. "Now." He finished.

One hand absently went to the hidden dagger tied inside her kimono. She'd be a fool to believe he would miss that slight gesture, and she knew she had been found out. Now in defense mode with her jaw set and eyes refusing to break contact, refusing to look weak, she retrieved the small weapon. Instead of waiting for her to drop it into his hand, Sasuke grasped her wrist and pulled her into his chest while still holding her arm up. His sudden movement made her drop the weapon but didn't register the sound of it clattering to the floor when all five senses were quickly invaded. His earthy spicy scent nearly had her in a daze and she could have easily mistaken his upper body for a cement wall. Out of surprise and embarrassment, she averted her eyes and tried to quell her beating heart, certain it could be heard by all.

She felt his face near her ear and shivered.

"Don't ever try to deceive me again."

He released her hand as if disgusted, then side-stepped her and moved to the table. Only then did Sakura have any sense to breathe. With limbs still acting numb, she couldn't turn to face him, even when he began to speak again.

"Return it. Then clean every piece of weaponry until I call for you."

Emerald eyes widened, snapping out the daze. However, instead of verbalizing objections, she slowly picked up the dagger and stiffly retreated from the cold room. While half-heartedly stomping down the corridors towards the weapons room, she placed a hand against one cheek that felt warmer than usual.

'Dammit!' He had actually made her blush. Blush! Of all the people to give her such a reaction, it had to be a cold, handsome but mysterious bastard who thinks himself higher than everyone else. No one was allowed to do that anymore.

And after all he had done to her, why was she feeling so self conscious around him? Not that she cared to draw back any in the sarcasm and rebuttal departments, but somehow, standing so close to Sasuke, her thoughts turned to vanity- wondering if that medieval bath house cleaned as good as the showers of the 21st century. Because the welcoming party decided she needed to be drugged through bath time, she could hardly remember if they even used soap.

The moment Sakura reached the room, she'd decided on going down there tonight. 'Whenever he's done with me.'

And so for the next few hours, the little slave girl went about her duties in a fashion all her own. She familiarized herself with the various types of weaponry, giving them temporary names and placing them in categories from sharpest to dullest, from biggest to littlest, and least harmful to most deadly. Why should she give the master the satisfaction of knowing this task made her miserable? 'Do the unexpected.'

She was the only one who could decide how to be miserable or not!

It felt like forever since she came in. When no one, like Suigestu or Juugo, came to visit, she suspected Sasuke forbade them in order to further punish her. And it was working so far. The pink haired girl stood to analyze her work. Every single blade was polished and put in their respective places. Even the table and sink were wiped down.

"So, what now?" She sighed and sat back down, placing a hand under her chin. 'How did Sasuke know I was keeping a daggar?' Were there secret cameras everywhere capturing her every move? Her eyes scanned the plain room. Nope. Nothing. Did those creepy vampire eyes have something to do with it- like give him crazy psychic powers or something? No... probably not. She placed a hand over her chest. Maybe the bond. Perhaps there is more to it than Kabuto had explained.

'Should I go ask him?' As much as his presence unsettled her, he seemed to be the only person willing to discuss the bond. Now, where to find him.

The hallway was empty when she stepped out. Slaves probably weren't permitted in this area because when you have your freedom ripped away so suddenly, it tends to make one desperate enough to steal any weapon laying around. The master must have labeled her a weak little girl incapable of handling any kind of weapon, and only sent her to clean them to torture her. It was utterly cruel.

While mindlessly walking, Sakura passed by a window and did a double take. "What! It's dark already?" She ran over to it and peered into the deep navy blue sky dotted with white lights. The sun had set a while ago but it was not yet pitch black and she could still make out the trees and the mountain range. 'I must've been in there longer than I thought. I wonder what time it is.'

Her body suddenly jumped away from the window as if it were on fire, and a hand flew to her chest. With her blood pressure sky-high now, she realized it was just the bond acting up again. It hurt this time. Kind of like an electric shock. And in the depths of the bond she felt a foreign anger... or more like frustration. Sasuke wanted her back in the kitchens.

"Ugh, I don't care if you eat or not!" She hissed between her teeth, cursing her feet for obeying orders. Minutes later, an annoyed Sakura entered what she now deemed 'the witch's lair,' aka the kitchen. And sure enough, the head witch began to shriek in her ear.

"Finally decided to arrive on time?" Misha mocked. "We wouldn't want Master-sama's food to be late again."

Sakura inwardly wished the boiling pot of water Misha was holding would suddenly drop on her feet and burn them. 'Sakura.' Her inner voice warned. 'Oh shut it, she totally deserves it.'

Misha ignored her murderous glare and set the pot down, ready to strain whatever contents it held. "Well don't just stand there like an idiot! Come and help me!"

"Help yourself, because that's kinda the last thing I want to do." Sakura smirked watching the how-dare-you-talk-back-to-me look on Misha's face. The Sasuke fan girl was about to retort when someone oooh'd dramatically and several voices chimed in to snicker at her. For a moment, Sakura felt like jumping to their side and joining in but her parent's humble teachings prevented that.

"Look out everyone, someone talked back to Misha!" One of the girls from the day's earlier encounter sang.

"Oh your highness, don't get upset! Being ugly is not a crime punishable by death." Another girl added in a mock accent.

"But it's still a crime!" The first girl laughed out loud until the rest of them joined, which in all was four girls.

Sakura couldn't help but roll her eyes at their generic insults, but to be honest, watching the exchange was a bit enjoyable. Misha, completely red in the face, opened her mouth but was cut off again by an older woman dressed in a simple brown dress covered by a dirtied apron. There would be no fight this time as well.

"Get back to work, all of you!" She waved a rag towards them threateningly, and they reluctantly obeyed. Once they quickly dispersed, Sakura glanced over to Misha and swore she heard her sigh in relief. Then, oddly enough, the girl remained silent while returning to prepare the rest of the Master's evening meal, never bothering to go through the steps with Sakura. Which didn't affect her all that much, but now it felt a little awkward between them, and she wished Oni had been assigned to the kitchens instead.

"Here, get going." Misha was shoving a tray full of food into Sakura's hands. Thankful it only took a few minutes and itching to escape the uncomfortable atmosphere, the pink-headed slave nearly bounded out of the kitchen. 'I'm never going back in there. He can't make me.' She stubbornly thought.

Sasuke's door slid into view a minute later. She knocked twice, scolding herself for it sounding too timid. Biting her lip in agitation, Sakura shifted the tray a little as thoughts of the morning's events played again. 'Well I've got nothing on me this time.' Their encounters so far have been nothing less than horrifying.

The door opened, revealing the room and it's sole occupant. He said nothing as she stepped in and unloaded the food, muscles stiffened for a fight if he suddenly decided to give her trouble again. Not that she would attack him, but this time she was better prepared for his quick reflexes.

They hadn't spoken a word. 'Don't look at him, don't look at him.' Sakura, feeling his eyes on her, took a steadying breath and slowly turned to head back out. Nonetheless, her eyes wondered upwards over his half-covered chest to his charcoal eyes, then back to his chest again, noticing the shirt had a few large tears in it.

Before she could stop herself, Sakura spoke, sounding genuinely curious, "What happened?"

Sasuke expressed his enthusiasm over that intrusive question with a lack of facial movement. Apparently words escaped him as well. Sakura noticed, but felt a need to determine the cause of this seemingly brutal wardrobe malfunction, when he looked practically perfect before. Oblivious to her feet moving closer to the still body, she asked again, "how did that happen?"

Again, no answer, but the air was becoming tight. "Did you get in a fight? Are you hurt?" 'Idiot, does he look hurt to you?'

It seemed ludicrous to suddenly act as if she cared about his well-being, but seeing someone hurt- even if that someone has enslaved you for eternity- kicked her into 'saving' mode. Summer internships at the hospitals to someday become a doctor, instilled this instinct in her.

When she finally looked into his eyes for an answer, they stared back hard and uncaring. He didn't need to be bothered by this petty girl any longer than necessary. The only words he spoke before nearly slamming the door was, "go to bed."

Sakura glared at the shut door, arms crossed. 'Go to bed? What are you, my parent now? Jerk.' Her chest ached as it took the Master's command literally, and she begrudgingly headed to her room. 'Oh... didn't Misha say something about training? If that's what it was, why wouldn't he just say so? I've never met a guy who talked and expressed so little.'

Finally inside, she easily found a pair of simple cotton pajamas thick enough to keep her warm, standard toiletries in the small cabinet above the sink, and a pair of socks to complete the ensemble. This was to be her first 'official' night because being drugged didn't count. Right?

Once settled and somewhat relaxed, now that the burning in her chest ceased completely, everything was quiet. Extremely quiet. And then, all at once the events of the previous two days came rushing back to crack the dead silence. Vision upon vision squished against each other in a chaotic sequence, causing the feelings associated with them to become so jumbled together, that Sakura cried. Small tears at first, until the images of the last time she saw her parents came up, and she sobbed into her pillow. She sobbed for hours, and a huge knot twisted in the pit of her stomach until she was nauseous. Another hour over the toilet, throwing up hardly anything, added to the bleak night.

Around 2am, Sakura finally fell into a restless sleep complete with never ending nightmares of swords, bodies, and red eyes. Escaping this place, especially with Sasuke around, appeared next to impossible.

I didn't really spellcheck this chapter so I apologize for any mistakes. And if there's something I might've missed or left out, please let me know, I tend to forget what I write in previous chapters. Thank you for reading!

Sakura tries to get through the days but Sasuke is purposefully making them horrendous for her, but it won't undo her determination to someday get free. I think in the next 2 or 3 chapters, I will reveal how important Sakura will turn out to be for the bad guys... she's definitely more than she seems to be.