"Did you request yourself to be on this mission?" Ino's question was sudden and blunt. There was desperation and pain in her eyes.
"Yes, I did."
"Why! This is a mission to eliminate him!" The blonde-haired girl couldn't bring herself to say the name. Not yet.
"Because it's him." Sakura answered.
Ino looked into her best friend's eyes searching for answers she couldn't find in her words. Her best friend looked determined. But Ino knew better. The determination was only there to hide the pain and sorrow. Her short and strong words were only there to hide her wavering feelings. Only for a moment, Ino felt relieved. She wasn't the only one.
"You're only going to get yourself killed you know." Ino's lips twisted in a sad smile. "If not physically, then emotionally."
"If you think you could stop me..." Sakura started, but Ino cut her off.
"If we go through this together...then maybe we can make it." Ino stepped forward and took both of Sakura's hands in her own. "We'll go through this together."
Sakura's eyes were wide open. She felt a large part of her heart die when she heard that her teammate has joined Akatsuki. Now she felt a part of it fill up again with warmth, connection, and light. It wasn't enough to fill all the holes in her heart. But it was enough to hope that the holes will be gone one day.
"Let's go talk to Shikamaru."
"He's my friend! Please I beg you! If you kill him then my friends would act on revenge! My important people are going to get hurt!" Naruto was crumpled down, his face buried in the snow to hide his tears from the powerful man in front of him.
"You are pathetic! Do you think your pathetic show of emotion is going to influence me in any way! Shinobi's are respected only by power!" Raikage spitted out. "If you don't want your friends to get hurt make sure they don't come attacking us after we kill that teammate of yours."
Ino, Kiba, and Sakura reached the Konoha gates. Usually, when there would be two chuunin guards at the gate, they were greeted with three root members wearing animal masks. The attack from Pein made the village highly alert, especially now that Danzo took his position as the new Hokage. The root members served to deter potential threats from the inside rather than the outside.
"Hey! The Hokage has not permitted anybody to step out of this village!" One root member with a crow mask stopped the three chuunin.
"Hokage? She's still in a coma, surely she can't give out permission for anything." Sakura answered.
"The Hokage is now Danzo-sama! Questioning his authority will end you up in jail!" The root member stepped forward to grab Sakura's collar but stopped. The root member suddenly found himself unable to move. The same could be said for the other two root members. Their shadows were connected to another shadow that was standing behind them.
"Not if you forget." Shikamaru smirked. "Ino."
"Right on it." Ino put her hand on one root member. Seconds later he collapsed to the ground. She repeated her actions to the other two. "Done. I erased their memories of ever encountering us."
"Heh, you're not just a crybaby, huh?" Kiba grinned towards Ino, only to receive a death glare from said blonde.
"Let's get going." Sakura urged her team to hurry on with their mission. "We don't have much time until people notice we're gone."
That night the four of them set camp outside the village borders. If they were going to fight the Uchiha they needed rest, and they had to be in perfect condition.
Sakura volunteered to take first watch. The sky outside was bright with stars. She wondered if Sasuke were under the same sky, seeing the same night sky as she was seeing. Probably not, she thought. If the stars were bright he would close his eyes. Preventing it's brightness from blinding him. If the sky was dark, he would open his eyes. As if it would make him see the path he has to walk. Why can't he see that it's the other way around?
"Hey." She felt a presence from behind. "Can I join you?"
Sakura didn't say anything so Ino took that as a yes, and sat beside her.
"Well you know, couldn't sleep." Usually she would refrain from showing her weakness to her rival, but she felt like she would regret it if she didn't interact with Sakura as direct as she can. "So how are you doing?"
"Fine, I guess. To be honest the reality hasn't sunk on me yet. I don't feel like a soldier that has a big fight ahead." Sakura replied to Ino with her own directness.
"Me too. That's normal. We'll feel the reality sink in the moment we meet him, whether we like it or not. And plus, we need our rest. That won't be possible if we felt like we gotta fight him any second now, would it?"
Sakura chuckled. Ino always redirected her feelings elsewhere. When she was sad, Ino's bantering made her feel annoyed, making her forget all the depression she felt a while ago. When she had loss of confidence, Ino's insults made her talk back with even greater insults, forgetting that she was an insecure girl a while ago.
"You're right." Sakura said. "Hey, isn't this our first mission together? It kind of makes sense we were never on the same mission when we're both valuable medic-nins."
"And a competent one at that," came Ino's reply.
"I've always wanted to ask you a question. Why did you want to become a medic-nin?" Sakura could still clearly remember the day when Ino begged Sakura, to teach her medic ninjutsu. It surprised her to see her rival be so determined that she would bend down to Sakura, of all people. Over the years, Ino has taken medic classes and proved her skills to be on top-tier next to that of Sakura's.
Ino contemplated for a moment and took a deep breath before she answered.
"It's you." She whispered out. "After his rescue mission I felt so hopeless, so useless. Chouji and Shikamaru were out there risking their lives to bring him back. All I did was wait for their return, and once they returned injured, all I did was pray for them to get better."
Sakura nodded in understanding. She felt the exact same thing. She cried to Naruto, pleading him to bring Sasuke back. Naruto promised her with a big smile and a thumbs up. It was then she noticed that it was Naruto who was always there for her, who always understood her. For that she was forever grateful. When Naruto left with the other rookies, all she could do was watch their backs. It felt so tantalizing. When Naruto came back heavily injured it pained her so much that she couldn't do anything while her precious people were fighting and getting hurt.
"I even thought that I should quit being a ninja. I can't do anything. I can't help my precious people. It was then that I thought of seeing your face. And to be honest it wasn't because I thought you would give me strength or answers. It was only because I thought you would be feeling the same. I thought we could lick our wounds together. How wrong I was." Ino chuckled to herself.
"I went to your house one day early in the morning. Your parents greeted me and told me you were in the hospital. I thought you were sick or injured so I rushed there. Then I met Shizune. She told me she would take me to you if I kept quiet and didn't disturb you. I was really worried, thinking that you might be in a critical condition. But then Shizune guided me in front of this room."
"Is Sakura in this room?"
"Shh," Shizune held a finger to her mouth. She then pointed her finger to the slightly open door.
Ino decided to peek through it, worried sick about the conditions of her rival-sometimes-best friend.
What she saw surprised her. Sakura wasn't sick. She was standing in front of a desk that had a seemingly dead fish on it.
"Go on Sakura." It was then that Ino realized Tsunade sitting in a couch further inside the room.
Sakura took in a deep breath, positioning her hands over the fish. Within seconds, her hands were glowing. The fish that was seemingly dead, suddenly started to come back to life. Sakura was shrieked at first but looked proudly at her own work. The proud look could be seen on Tsunade's face as well.
"Tsunade says that Sakura is the only medic that could possibly surpass her." Ino was taken out of her stupor with Shizune's comments. To say she was astonished at her friend was an understatement.
"And then I realized I can't lose to you. For that purpose alone I have a reason to continue being a ninja and become a medic."
Sakura was surprised. She didn't know the background to why Ino became a medic. She was even more surprised that she was the reason Ino strived to become a medic. She always thought that she was the one who was chasing Ino. Not the other way around.
"To be honest, first I was jealous. No matter how hard I tried I couldn't surpass you. You always had perfect chakra control. Then I realized denying the truth won't take me anywhere. Instead I decided to accept it and make that jealousy into admiration. Instead of fighting against you I decided to put my efforts in becoming like you. Guess what? My abilities increased after that revelation."
Ino felt good. It felt so good to talk about everything she was hiding inside. Her shoulders suddenly felt light. The ugly inferiority complex she ever felt against Sakura disappeared when she admitted Sakura was superior. Admitting it made her feel like she could talk to Sakura on equal grounds now. There was nothing to hide, nothing to feel ashamed of.
"And here I thought I was the one chasing you."
"Well I do have dashingly good looks." Ino winked flipping her blonde hair back.
"That wasn't what I meant!" Sakura huffed.
"Hey Sakura," Ino sang out, "we missed on all our girls night out, girls shopping day out, girls movie day and all that girl stuff best friends do. It's not too late to do them is it?"
The pink haired kunoichi had a stunned look on her face but moments later her lips turned upwards.
"Maybe I'm even going to give you the honor of choosing my next battle outfit." Sakura said with a voice of mock arrogance.
Maybe they won't come out from this mission alive, but if it came to a life or death situation, they would remember this conversation so they can stay alive. They had something they were looking forward to, they can't die before accomplishing it could they?
Naruto was lying silently on the tatami mat. He was physically and emotionally exhausted of the recent events. The death of Jiraiya, the fight with Pein, Tsunade's coma, Danzo taking over power, Sasuke joining Akatsuki, and Kumo hunting down Sasuke.
Sasuke. He thought. Why didn't you come back after you killed Itachi? Did you feel free after you killed him? Or did you feel more vacant?Do you ever think about me? About Sakura-chan? Or Kakashi-sensei?
"Na-ru-to-kun." The voice came from the guy wearing an orange mask, standing by the window.
"Hey guys! I think I smell Sasuke!" Kiba shouted to his new team. Akamaru was wagging his tail from behind Kiba.
It was already the next day, and the team continued their search on Sasuke.
"It's about time, huh?" Ino looked towards Sakura.
"Right," Sakura replied, "lead the way Kiba."
Before Sakura moved forward, Ino caught Sakura's wrist. The pink-haired girl turned around to her friend.
"Two things." Ino's face was serious. "First, don't die. Second, remember our promise."
Sakura nodded her head and their new team headed straight to their new destination.
"We should keep our encounter with Tobi a secret." Kakashi stated. Only moments before Tobi dropped a big bomb on them. The truth of the Uchiha Clan. The Uchiha Massacre wasn't only Itachi's doing. Konoha was behind it, ordered it.
"The village will be in chaos after Pein, Tsunade's coma and now this!" Yamato agreed.
"Hey Naruto, are you alright?" Kakashi asked.
Naruto was meditating in his sage mode outside the inn. He needed to calm himself or else he would get broke with all the things happening to him at once. He stopped his meditation when he felt a familiar chakra signature.
"Sai is coming!"
Minutes later Sai arrived at the scene. His gaze was on Naruto.
"As a member of team seven there is something I need to talk to you."
Karin laid on the ground her heart bleeding. Sasuke penetrated her chest with a Chidori, when she was taken hostage by Danzo. That Sasuke was now battered, barely able to move from the previous fight he had with Danzo.
Karin tried to look at Sasuke's face, if only she could see his smile one last smile.
"Good bye." Was all Sasuke said. His face holding no emotion, his hand chirping with Chidori.
"Sasuke-kun!" Sasuke dispelled his Chidori at the familiar voice.
"What do you want Sakura?" He didn't need to turn around to see who it was.
"I want to follow you! I'm going to leave Konoha!" Sakura cried out. She jumped from the other end of the bridge to Sasuke's side. "I regret not following you before. Take me with you."
"Why would she agree to eliminate Sasuke!" Naruto was screaming, shaking Sai's shoulders. "She loves him too much."
Naruto was having a hard time digesting the facts. Sakura was supposed to be his kindred spirit, they fought so hard together to bring Sasuke back. Her actions just didn't make sense to him.
"Why? Why did this happen?" Naruto questioned.
Before Sai could answer, three foreign Shinobi appeared in front of him. It was Gaara with his two siblings Temari and Kankuro.
"There is something I need to talk to you Naruto."
What is it this time?
"Then prove to me your loyalty. Kill her." He pointed towards Karin. "As you can see, she is not useful to me anymore."
How cold! To talk of a comrade like that!Sakura was still deep in her thoughts until she heard Karin's barely audible whisper of stop it Sasuke.
Sasuke was ready to drill into Sakura's skull with his chidori but stopped when he felt another presence heading to him. Sasuke barely dodged Kiba's gatsuuga jumping sideways. When he tried to stand up from his crouch he found himself unable to do so. He realized he was paralyzed by Shikamaru's shadow.
"Do you think your petty shadow can hold me?" Sasuke growled.
"Don't get ahead of yourself. You look pretty tired while I am in my best condition. We have the advantage here. Sakura now!"
Sasuke saw Sakura rushing towards him with a kunai in her hand. He was sure the kunai was covered in poison. He had to get out of this soon.
"Shannaro-!" Just when Sakura was about to stab him, Sasuke forced himself out of the shadow and ducked Sakura's swing. He brought himself back up and grabbed her neck. He was deciding on whether to choke her to death or stab her with her own kunai. He decided to do the latter. Sakura unable to breath lost all the power to move her body making her release the kunai she held in her hand which Sasuke caught in return.
"Die!" Sasuke was ready to strike Sakura.
Sakura closed her eyes waiting for the moment to come. But then she felt herself being pushed to the ground from an outside force, away from Sasuke's hold. She opened her eyes to see what it was.
"Whenever you need me I'm here for you." Gaara reached his hand out to Naruto's shoulders only to have them pushed away by said blonde. The Kazekage held a sad face. "If you are his friend, you know what you have to do."
Naruto replayed Gaara's words of what Sasuke did at the Five Kage Summit. Why did you attack the five kages Sasuke! How further away are you willing to go!
After Gaara left, Naruto had a hard time breathing. It didn't take long until he collapsed from hyperventilation. Why was all of this happening? Why was his world crashing down?
"Yamato! Take him back to his room to rest! I'll find Sakura with Pakkun!"
"I won't let you hurt my best friend anymore!" It was Ino. She got herself stabbed in the shoulder in Sakura's place.
Sasuke's hand was glowing with Chidori again, this time headed straight for Ino. Two shouts were heard at the same time. "Chidori!" "Shintenshin no jutsu!"
Sakura was horrified. Sasuke's chidori penetrated through Ino's heart. There was no way she could survive that attack.
"The shintenshin no jutsu was a success." Sasuke whispered. "But I couldn't make it in time to save my real body."
"Ino is that you?" Shikamaru's voice was barely audible.
"It is. But my shintenshin no jutsu will fade the moment my real body will fade...and that is soon."
"No no! I'll stop the bleeding and heal you! So carefully take out your, I mean, his hand out of your body!" Sakura was panicked. She would make it. She would heal Ino. After all, Ino told her she admired Sakura's medic abilities right? Damn, she was going to prove Ino right! She rushed towards Ino, her hands glowing green with healing chakra.
"Sakura. I still have control over his body. I'm going to die anyways. You have to kill him now."
"No! You're going to be fine!" Sakura is not going to believe it. She kept pumping chakra to Ino's heart.
"Sakura!" This time it was Shikamaru calling out to her. He could barely say the next few words as tears were falling out from his eyes. "You know she is right."
"Sakura, I'm sorry that I couldn't keep our promise. I'm sorry that it took so long to see how empty my heart was without you. I'm sorry to notice that our love life was not worth losing our friendship. I'm sorry that I have to put you through this pain. If you accept my apology...please make it up to me. Use this chance I'm giving you now."
Sakura stopped pumping her chakra to Ino, and directed her eyes towards Sasuke, who actually had Ino's mind.
"Please, why the sad face? It's not like we're never going to meet each other." Then Sasuke's face became serious. "Sakura...hurry...ca-can't hold on...much...longer..."
Sakura put her hand over Sasuke's heart.
"Please remember. You'll always be my best friend. You'll always live inside me. I'll always chase after you." Sakura was shouting now. "You are the one that has guided me!"
"Let's meet...when...you become...strongest..kunoichi...bye...most precious person..." With that Sasuke's head drooped low and the eyes were closed. It took a little while when Sasuke opened his eyes again to see his pink-haired teammate staring at him with hollow eyes.
"Sa-," he was cut off the moment he began to speak.
"Bye Sasuke." Sakura's hand placed over Sasuke's heart glowed green. And what felt like a moment felt like minutes to Sasuke. His only regret was that he had to die without feeling any satisfaction to his life, without restoring the Uchiha clan, without laughing at the sight of dying Konoha citizens from his hands. Sakura collapsed but didn't reach the ground as strong hands caught her.
"I'm sorry that you had to do it." Sakura looked up to see Kakashi's face. "I'm sorry that I had to put the heavy burden on you."
Kakashi felt Sakura's consciousness slip as she lost her footing.
"Shikamaru can you take Ino's body? Kiba, take that red-haired girl with you. She's most likely dead from all that bleeding but still her body contains information."
"What about Sasuke's body?" Shikamaru asked.
"Naruto can carry him." Kiba said.
"I smell him coming this way." Kiba replied.
There was dread in Kakashi's, "oh dear". He didn't want to think about the blonde's reaction when he sees his important brother and best friend, killed by his precious girl he was in love with since forever.
So I had free time and decided to write this. Should I continue?