The Konoha Hospital had quieted down considerably since the earlier hours of the day. Having driven back the attack, Konoha was relatively safe again. A tired janitor could be seen slowly sweeping his way through the hospital. The halls themselves were clear of any injured villagers, a good majority were sent home with minor bumps and bruises. The more seriously injured were still kept at the hospital for observation.
Sakura nodded and smiled tiredly as the janitor passed the main desk, pushing a wide broom down the hall. Of her friends, Kiba and Choji ended up staying overnight. Both had taken a nasty beating from one the Summons they encountered. They had held their own until help had arrived, luckily Naruto and Sai had had been in the area.
The mother of the child who died under her care was still at the hospital, having suffered a fainting spell and knocked her head hard on the floor. Sakura made a mental note to visit the mother when she returned.
"You should go home." A voice broke Sakura's train of thought. Shizune entered the E.R with a group following closely behind her. "I thought I saw Sasuke waiting out by the front gate."
"He's early." Sakura stretched and checked the time on the wall clock overhead. She peered behind Shizune, brows raised at the group of medial-nin. The cavalry had arrived. "As are you guys."
"I figured it was about time we took over. I heard it was utter chaos in here." Shizune grinned.
"That would be one way to describe it," Sakura said wryly. She stood, gathering up her paperwork, handing some of the pile to Shizune.
Shizune and the others chuckled, dispersing to various areas of the E.R. Among the new shift of hospital staff was Karin. Since meeting back when they were teenagers, Sakura only ever ran interacted with the red-head at work. It was always awkward when they spoke with each other, so they normally opted not to. And this night wasn't any different. Karin passed her, acknowledging her with a curt nod. Sakura mirrored the move.
Shizune lagged behind glancing over the roster and logs. She leaned an elbow on the large desk at the medical station. "You did well today. I'll be sure to mention it to the Chief."
"Well, thank you, I appreciate that." Sakura's feigning of excitement could have been construed as rude, were it not for the fact that Shizune had been promoted to the hospital's Chief of Staff three months ago.
"Go home and get some rest," Shizune laughed. "And take tomorrow morning off."
The sky was a shady muted dark blue. The night air was cool, tinged with a faint smell of dirt and smoke. Most of the villagers had already retreated back into their households, having cleaned up their properties as best they could before nightfall. Unfortunately, a few of the buildings did not survive the invasion and would need to be rebuilt.
Sakura found Sasuke with his back to the hospital entrance, leaning on the archway. He was looking down, a small frown on his lips. If the mere mention of it wouldn't offend him so much, she'd tell him he looked endearing.
"Hey." Sakura hugged her leather portfolio of paperwork to her chest as she neared him.
Sasuke looked up and pushed off the gate, brows furrowed. "About time."
"You're early." Sakura pointed out.
Sakura sighed and walked ahead of him. So he was back to being grumpy again, the moment in the closet was probably due to his initial panic at her being in danger.
"Where are you going?"
"Home," Sakura answered him, not slowing her pace.
"I thought that the whole reason for meeting you here was so we could talk," he asked as he followed her.
Sakura stopped at that and turned around. "Yes, we need to talk. But not when you're in one of your moods."
"I'm not in a mood," he snapped.
Sakura gave him a skeptical look and shook her head as she turned back around. "I'm tired."
She didn't and rounded the next corner.
"Sakura." He sounded weary.
After a few more steps, when she thought he had given up, there was a light touch on her wrist, startling her. His hand lightly grabbed her by the wrist, urging her to stop. Sakura stopped, but remained silent. With a raised brow, she waited for him to speak.
"My place is closer," Sasuke abruptly said as he pulled on her wrist and hurried her along.
Sakura was about to protest, on principle she should say something about his manhandling her. But when she caught up with him and could see that concentrated frown on his face, she decided against it.
Maybe today's earlier events affected him more than she had thought. If something had happened to him today and she never had the chance to speak with him again after their fight, she couldn't imagine what that would do to her. Her heart raced at the idea that perhaps it affected Sasuke as deeply as it did for her.
As they neared his apartment, she began to feel anxious, unsure if they should talk before settling in, or just push the talking off until later…again.
Sakura inwardly sighed. The interruption was both a curse and a blessing. They were greeted with a familiar face, one that with an honest smile and a short mop of brilliant blond hair.
"Naruto!" Sakura greeted him, then remembered her concern with her friend needing medical attention but was too stubborn to seek it. "You should have stopped by the hospital after the battle."
"I'm fine. Not a scratch!" He reassured her, holding his arms out on display. "I just came from handing patrol duties over to Shikamaru. He was on one of those liason trips to Suna again. Missed the dang whole invasion, can you believe that? Hold on, are you two taking again?"
Sakura's cheeks pinked and clutched that the portfolio tighter to her chest, her eyes avoiding that knowing grin on Naruto's face.
"Did you want something, Naruto?" Sasuke asked bluntly.
"Actually, I was looking to see if any food shops were still open. How about it guys, you hungry?" Naruto patted his belly and smiled.
A late-night snack meant a three course meal by Naruto's standards. Sasuke sighed impatiently, reaching out to usher Sakura along. "Another time."
She stopped Sasuke with a hand on his arm and added sheepishly. "What he means is we really have to get going. I'm going to pass out on the sidewalk if I don't get into a bed soon."
"Alright," Naruto frowned. "Hey wait, Sasuke, you manage to speak with Kakashi yet?"
Sasuke shrugged. "Not yet. Figured I'll-"
The three of them all stiffened at the sense of danger. Sakura followed Sasuke's gaze over to a shadowy area of the street behind Naruto. Damn. At this rate, they'd never have the time to talk.
With a curse, Sasuke abruptly pushed Naruto and Sakura out with both arms, shoving them both back up against a nearby tall cement wall. Three shuriken flew past where they had been standing, whizzing by at killer speed.
The action cause her to drop her portfolio of paperwork, thankfully it stayed closed.
"You knucklehead," Sasuke hissed. "Did you not check if you were being followed?"
Naruto blushed and rubbed the side of his hip where he bumped into the wall too hard. Sakura pushed against the arm that was still holding her against the wall. Sasuke didn't seem to realize he was still pressing her back. When he finally let her go, Sakura stepped forward to survey their surroundings.
"I don't see them," she breathed.
Before anyone could comment further, a whistle sounded from the shadows-a diversion. But Sakura's head still turned toward the noise on instinct, glancing somewhere further down the street. Suddenly, flashes of silver rained down upon them.
They tried to jump out of the way, but it was a little too late, the needles nicked Sakura and Naruto in the cheeks and Sasuke on his forearm. The group of senbon needles embedded themselves into the ground near their feet. There wasn't any time for chatter or strategizing, as if on cue, they dispersed in search for cover.
Sakura flattened herself against a side of a building in a narrow alleyway. Her chest rose and fell as she quieted her breathing. She had sprinted nearly four blocks before ducking into the alley, losing sight of Sasuke and Naruto.
Sakura, Naruto, and Sasuke had home advantage. They knew these streets and alleyways by heart. Hopefully it was enough to lose their ambushers, or at least slow them down.
She reached up and wiped at the cut on her cheek, nicked open by the senbon. Glancing the small smudge of blood on her fingers, she finally noticed her cheek was numb where it should have stung.
Fantastic. The senbon was poisoned. Judging from how slowly the numbness was spreading, there was only a trance amount on her cut and it wasn't enough to kill her, at least not right away. It probably would have been a whole different story if the senbon actually managed to hit them critically.
Peering down the alleyway on both ends, Sakura knew she had to find better cover before administering first aid. She willed chakra into her legs and jumped up, scaling the two story buildings surrounding her with a single leap.
The moment she landed on one of the roof tops, she started running in the direction she had last seen Sasuke had gone. After running past several buildings, she found cover in a balcony of one of the more expensive apartment buildings in the village.
Ducking behind a large planter with tall shrubbery, Sakura rummaged through her medical pouch and pulled out an ampoule of anti-venom. She injected herself with syringe before applying some on the cut on her cheek. It might not work with the kind of poison used, but it was worth a shot. Placing two fingers on her cheek, she evened her breathing and concentrated on her chakra flow. Her fingers began to glow a bright green as the superficial cut on her cheek healed.
Suddenly, a loud blast sounded nearby, shaking the planter and floor around her. Sakura peered out to investigate, sensing it was northwest of her, in the direction of the park. As she made her way over, she could spot the edge of a bright blue spherical blast, followed by a deafening cluster of electric energy at the top of the trees. Or in other words, Naruto and Sasuke were in battle and whoever those poor souls were, they were being annihilated.
Leaping over rooftops, Sakura raced over toward the fight, only to sense she was being followed. Without a moment's notice, she quickly turned on her heel, skidding as her momentum tipped her forward. Feeling her muscles strain as her body twisted, she jumped down and continued running at street level.
Sakura weaved her way through the streets of Konoha in the general direction of the park. Ducking in to another alleyway, she stopped for breath. Reaching into her hip pack, she pulled out her favorite pair of fingerless combat gloves.
Pulling the gloves on and tugging them until they felt snug, she could feel the chakra-friendly material wrap around her hand and fingers in a reassuring fit. She clenched her hands and unclenched them, itching to get on the offensive.
As Sakura suspected, her pursuer was lost and jogged right past her at first. But as he backtracked and stepped back into the alley, she could see the man's identity was hidden way by a gilded, silver mask. The mask covered the man from the nose up, his sable hair pushed out by the mask, making him look like a rakish pirate. His whole body was covered in black, black boots, black body suit with a high neck, and black skin tight gloves.
Feeling the weight of a broken piece of heavy concrete in her hand, hidden at her back, she whipped it at the man, using a bit of chakra to shoot it even more dangerously. The fist-sized piece of concrete hit the man on his collar, knocking him back a step with a painful yelp.
Taking advantage of his disorientation, she rushed him and tripped him with a low sweeping kick. He easily flipped upright after falling on his back. Sakura swung out a series of attacks, the first couple landed perfectly, but then he managed to block or dodge the rest.
The masked man went on the offensive and threw a couple punches of his own. One hit her side and it hurt like hell, nearly knocking her down. It didn't feel like a natural fist, he must have had some sort of brass knuckle underneath his gloves.
Determined to avoid being hit again, Sakura willed her limbs to move as fluidly as possible. Ducking and dodging his swings, she ran over and hopped onto a dumpster. With another hop, she jumped toward a brick wall right before the man kicked the dumpster out from under her. Using the wall as a boost, she pushed off the wall and with the momentum she gained from the movement, Sakura yelled and aimed straight for the masked man below.
Her fist hit jaw and it dazed the man into a wobble as she landed back in front of him. She clenched her fists and concentrated on her chakra flow. As her hands began to glow a soft blue, Sakura pulled it back and swung out. When her fist met his chest, the man flew back, crash landing on a wall at the other end of the street.
The masked man was just knocked completely out, not even making a moan or gasp. Point for her. She thought proudly before remembering the fighting at the park. Without second thought, Sakura dashed out of the alley and headed for the park.
End of Part III, stay tuned!
(again, pardon any mistakes, I've edited it quite a bit since my last beta went through it for me.)