Foreword: I see a bunch of you enjoyed the upload. One of my favorite reviews said the double upload got them 'bricked up.' I fucking nearly died from laughter. Glad you enjoyed it~! Had the two chapters churning for a while, so I am glad it was received well. Good to be back. To those who enjoyed the last two chapters, reviewed, and followed/favorited the story, thank you again and for your diligence.

Not exactly sure I'm going to keep dropping two chapters at a time but, for now, got another two chapters, so I hope this perks up some pricks again ("Ayo! Pause!").

Seriously though, thanks y'all.


A Nugget Of Advice, Chapter 27

Sakura Haruno found herself at home most of the time if she wasn't slated to meet with her team. Like recently. It seemed lately that Kakashi-sensei was always out of town on a mission that had taken him away from Team 7 for some time. Naruto himself wasn't with Team 7 a lot these days, doing missions. Heck, he was on one now. And Sasuke…

Sakura frowned, feeling her eyes burn a little thinking about her teammate. She could say she was used to Sasuke's rebuffs. He often said "No" to her date ideas, and to her invites to do something else after his training sessions but it didn't deter her. In her opinion, it made her try harder! That last rebuff of his, however…

She should be used to it, but it was… This one hurt, a lot.

Sakura had known for a while that she was the weakest on her team. It had started when Team 7 entered the Chūnin Exams. She had known Sasuke was one of the best genin of Konoha, and he showed it in the Exams. Kakashi Hatake was a war veteran and a jōnin, so enough was said about that. Naruto Uzumaki, however, was a shock to her that she had taken a while to finally get over.

Naruto was always a buffoon in the Academy to her. He was nothing but a child who was busier proclaiming that he would become a Hokage than actually actively training and getting stronger. He would spend his time skipping classes, pulling pranks, and – when he showed up for class – acting out and being a class clown. To her, Naruto's "best" attribute was his ability to fail. A three-time failure who couldn't even perform the Bunshin no Jutsu, and an annoying pest who had too much in his head that she would go out with him on dates, it was no wonder Sakura hated that Naruto was on her team. She truly felt that the ramen-obsessed moron would do nothing but drag down Sasuke and her.

But things had switched. Naruto had easily become one of the strongest genin of their generation. He had started to prove it in Nami no Kuni and the preliminaries of the Chūnin Exams. Then, he made it to the finals after beating Neji and the Suna Kunoichi, before losing to the kunoichi's younger (and more psychotic) brother, Gaara. Besides Shikamaru, Naruto had been the only one to become promoted to chūnin rank. And she believed now that Naruto was on the same level as Sasuke in terms of strength. She genuinely did. No other genin came close to his and Sasuke's prowess.

And that included her. She would be fine with that if she wasn't far behind, but Sakura was nowhere near their level. It hurt her pride a little- okay, it was a lot, but she felt like within time, she would get better. Take it slow and steady! She wasn't the ninjutsu powerhouse like the boys of Team 7 but she could find some other way to accel. She believed that.

Then recently, the pink-haired Haruno realized that she had not been the only one who realized her standing as the genin.

She remembered so vividly what happened three days ago. It was the usual humdrum of the day. Kakashi-sensei and Naruto both were out of the village on missions, so only Sakura and Sasuke were here in the village. Sasuke trained every day at their assigned training grounds. She, of course, went to accompany him and see how he was doing. Sasuke had been in a brooding, sour mood, but she hadn't thought it was any different than usual. Well, at first. He had been even more quiet and contemplative than usual. In hindsight, that probably had started with his and Naruto's "incident" and the meeting with the Hokage.

She wasn't bothered. She enjoyed watching Sasuke move and train his taijutsu and seeing his ninjutsu. Or just about anything Sasuke had done when he was training. Everything about the Uchiha dazzled her. Eventually, he was done with his training.

Sakura, of course, had to ask. She popped the question: "Do you want to get something to eat with me, Sasuke-kun?"

At first, it was his usual quick and annoyed huff. Then, "No, I'm going home."

Sakura then insisted, trying to see if anything would happen, because sometimes, he did concede. The worst he could say, she thought, was "No" again. This time, it was different.

The look Sasuke gave her was downright frosty. "How about you do something for me, Sakura? For once, how about you think about your training? You love bothering me day in and day out about a date here, a getaway together there. But I've never seen you truly apply yourself to be a ninja ever since we graduated from the Academy."

"I- wait-"

"That's the thing, right? It's always a 'wait' for you. We graduated from a ninja academy nearly a year ago. Everyone in our class seemed to have gotten stronger, I think. At least the ones who made it to the semi-finals of the Chūnin Exams. I've gotten stronger. Aburame-san got far in the tournament. Nara became a chūnin. Even the dead last, Naruto, did too." He looked particularly sour admitting that. "I can't speak for that Yamanaka girl, Akimichi-san, Inuzuka, or Hyūga-san. But you, you're in the same space as before."

Sakura remembered becoming hot, flushed with indignation. "That's not true! I was good with the tree-climbing exercise that Kakashi-sensei showed us! Better than both of you!"

"And what about the water-walking exercise?"

"I- Well, I read up about it…?"

Sasuke just shook his head, deadpanning, "You never tried learning it, did you? Like, outside Kakashi-sensei's instruction?"

"E-Even if I didn't, I learned how to dispel genjutsu! Kakashi-sensei said I might have a great talent for them!"

"Do you know any genjutsu though?"

She paused, before hanging her head. Her silence was her answer.

Sasuke continued to cut into her. "You may have learned how to dispel genjutsu, but I have as well. Naruto probably has too. Besides those two things, you haven't applied yourself. Not really. Outside team drills, you never asked for training or help with anything. Never sought out Kakashi-sensei for some extra instruction, or help with a technique you were working on. Never sought out knowledge and strength beyond Kakashi-sensei. Never opened up a scroll and practiced for hours until you could barely pick yourself up to go home."

She tried defending herself deftly, her heart pounding. "I-I know that! But I'm not like you, Sasuke-kun, or even Naruto. I can't run myself ragged like that!"

"I don't believe that. It's not because you can't, it's because you don't want to try, you never tried. And that's my point." The boy then paused to let out a sigh. "I say this because despite the headache you and Naruto give me, you two… are my friends. My only friends in this village."

She remembered feeling very touched by that, despite Sasuke's digging words. Sasuke hadn't done much in the past to make it seem like he cared about his teammates – about her – but this was the indication that she needed to know that he thought about her. That he held a place in his heart for her.

However, the happiness didn't last because before she could say anything, Sasuke continued, "But even if you're my friend, you're also my teammate. In case you haven't figured it out, our team is smaller thanks to Naruto becoming a chūnin. Kakashi-sensei and I have little use for a teammate who can't even pull her weight. I have no use for a girl who keeps pestering me about dates but can't bother to better herself. Why are you even a shinobi then if this is what you're going to do all day?"

Sakura recalled her eyes burning, her trying to force back the tears from coming out of her eyes and failing. Sasuke coldly finished with, "Don't ask me about any more dates, Sakura. I'm too busy trying to get stronger. Especially since I can't leave the village on missions now. If you don't want to get serious and be a genin-level shinobi all your life, whatever, but leave me out of it."

The Haruno teen was numb after that. She didn't follow Sasuke as he walked away to his home. She remembered standing out in the training grounds field for a minute, sniveling, before collapsing to her knees and letting out a shriek in the wind. By the time she picked herself up, she all but ran home to cry some more in her pillow.

It hurt – all because it was true. She hadn't applied herself to learn much, just taking what she was forced to learn, or suggested to her. She knew she was intelligent and particularly good with her chakra control, but she never tried playing around with her strengths. Never applied herself, even after Nami no Kuni, where she was still in denial about how much of a gap was between her and the rest of her teammates.

Her thoughts gave her a good reminder of what happened in the Forest of Death. She couldn't do anything to help against Orochimaru, even if she knew he was too strong to do anything against her. Naruto tried; Sasuke tried. She was scared shitless. Then, she recollected that she almost died to the Oto ninjas who were going after Sasuke. She needed interference from Rock Lee and Ino's team to help her. Both times, she could do almost nothing to help her teammates. She was weak.

And that would have been okay. Sakura would have just chalked that up to being a slow starter or a late bloomer, but after her match with Ino, Sakura hadn't done much training. Kakashi-sensei had taken Sasuke for one-on-one training for an entire month outside the village; Naruto, well, she never sought out, truthfully. And since she was eliminated from the Chūnin Exams, she hadn't done anything. She felt like it didn't make any sense to train. No sort of training on the side, nothing at all.

This continued even after the episode in the hospital between Naruto and Sasuke when Kakashi had promised to get her some help with some of her interests. She didn't follow up with the man, and now, he was on high-level missions, in and out of the village these days. She didn't even open up the medical ninjutsu training scrolls he gave her.

...What in the hell was she doing? Why the hell did she become a shinobi again? She knew deep in her heart it wasn't like Sasuke or Naruto's goals. Sasuke had the belief he could kill Itachi Uchiha, the slayer of his clan, and Sakura believed he could do it one day if he was given the chance. Naruto himself had loftier dreams of becoming the Hokage – something one time ago she would laugh at the idea of, but Naruto had been applying himself dearly and he was already a step closer to his goal. He was already receiving instruction from the Hokage, Sasuke had told her. Which was pretty crazy, Sakura said to herself when she learned that tidbit.

Why did she become shinobi? Was it simply just because Ino wanted to become one? Was it because she wanted to do better than her father who only made genin and never went further than that? Was it a combination of both? Or was it simply because most of the kids in the village wanted to become a ninja? Did she even have a reason anymore?

Did she want to quit?

Because she was not like Naruto or Sasuke. She could never be like them. She just didn't have their drive and she knew it. But she didn't want to be useless, didn't want to stay useless. But what the hell could she do? She was just a nerd, and being good at math, books, and reading wasn't serving her much good when she and her team were on missions.

Sakura sighed, holding back tears. Goddamn, was she starting to hate this. All this crying didn't help at all. She had to do something about this. Anything. Maybe she could start, as Sasuke suggested, her training separately. Maybe she could do something with those scrolls Kakashi-sensei gave her a while back. All they were doing anyway in her house was collecting dust. She had said to herself she would learn when Kakashi-sensei came back from his missions, and Team 7 met in their training grounds, but why didn't want to apply herself now?

It was stupid, but it wasn't too late to try.

Or at least do something now because she wasn't going to be sleeping now with all these thoughts running in her head.

"Mom!" Sakura called from her bedroom. "I'm going to head outside."

"…This late in the night, dear?"

"I'm going to train, I guess…?" Sakura responded, hating how lamely she put it. "Anyway, going to go outside."

There was a pause. "Well, okay then. Just, be careful, sweetie. I'll let your father know when he comes in."

Her mother was confused at Sakura's attitude. The younger Haruno knew why. Damn, even her mother was taken back by Sakura. She didn't do crap when she wasn't meeting with her team, huh?

Sakura walked sedately to the training grounds, tired of her foolishness. She would start applying herself today, for sure! She's not going to let her team down anymore. That was her thoughts anyway. The training had been all forgotten when she got to the training grounds and saw her teammate Sasuke staring down four foreign ninjas, looking rigid and tense as if he expected a fight. They all wore the Otogakure symbol on their forehead protector.

As she hid behind a tree, hoping to the gods there wasn't any sort of sensor in that group, Sakura took in the shinobi's appearances.

One was a big male shinobi who reminded her of a taller Chōji – stocky with a stomach on him. Next was a slightly shorter guy with four arms and a ponytail resembling Shikamaru. Next to him was a redhead shinobi who looked like they could be either a guy or girl with that hat on their head and slender build. The final person stood in front of the group of shinobi like they were the leader and, like the redhead, could have been either male or female but after they started to talk, she determined he was a male.

"…Sasuke Uchiha, eh?" The guy spoke with a relaxed drawl. "My name is Sakon. My teammates here are Tayuya, Kidōmaru, and Jirōbō. We've been looking for you for a while."

"I already know why you're here," Sasuke responded flatly.

"Oh? Then Orochimaru-sama has already let you know what we can offer." Sakura knew who exactly these people were. They were Orochimaru's people, here to tempt Sasuke to go with them. She swallowed a lump in her throat, wondering what Sasuke was going to do now.

"Orochimaru is dead," Sasuke returned, not sounding all that impressed.

"Not for long. You see, Orochimaru-sama has a way to come back but we need your help. You're the key to getting him back."

"How?"

"The seal. It has the power to do so. Orochimaru-sama's genius and all."

"So, what? How do you plan on reviving him? Should I just put faith in random Oto-nin and hope you can get your master back?"

"Ignoring your, quite honestly, insulting words, I can't say much. I'm sure you can't hear the fighting in the background, otherwise, you would shut up and just come with us," Sakon quipped dryly. "Just follow us and we can help you get that strength you desire. You do want to kill Itachi Uchiha, don't you?"

Sasuke paused before nodding. "I do want to kill him. I'll go with you."

Sakura bit her lip, not liking what that meant. She… couldn't do anything physically to stop Sasuke but if she had to, she could alert the village. She didn't want to believe it, but even after that incident that involved the Hokage, Sasuke still was willing to chase after Orochimaru's power.

Suddenly, she dashed that thought away when it became apparent that she didn't have to worry about Sasuke and his choices anymore as his hand went to attack the group's leader…


"-Just follow us and we can help you get that strength you desire. You do want to kill Itachi Uchiha, don't you?"

Sasuke flinched, nearly bristling in anger. Did they know about him? Then again, he shouldn't be too surprised. If Orochimaru knew about Sasuke's desire to kill Itachi, of course, they did too. If he was still under the terrible influence of the Cursed Seal, he probably would have just decided to join them. The allure of power was too strong to resist. But now, his head was clear. There was no real promise of strength if Sasuke was to go with them.

He looked down, in thought into what to do next. Suddenly, he nodded. "I do want to kill him. I'll go with you."

"So, let's get to already, kid," Sakon groused. "The sooner we leave, the better. Kidōmaru, let Kimimaro know we got Sasuke. Jirōbō, Tayuya, surround him."

"Will do," smirked Kidōmaru. Sasuke noted the departure of the six-armed shinobi who quickly sped off into a direction. They placed him in a triangle formation, covering three sides. Tayuya and Jirōbō took a side while Sakon started to lead the front.

Sasuke also noted the outfits they were wearing. Drab-colored tunics that didn't cover their necks at all. All it would take is one quick stab to the base of one of their necks and instant death would occur, ending at least one of their lives. Sasuke didn't hesitant one bit; a slight of the hand and his kunai blade's tip came at Sakon's neck with such speed he couldn't possibly move-

-But he didn't have to when a hand suddenly erupted, ridiculously enough, from the base of Sakon's neck. "Nice try there, weakling," Sakon mocked. "I guess we have to do this the hard way after all."

Tayuya came at Sasuke as Sakon held onto his arm tightly. Lifting, Sasuke used his right foot to kick at the kunoichi, which she deflected with one arm. Landing back, the Uchiha brought a hand seal up, showing the half-tiger sign. She flinched and in that moment of hesitance, Sasuke brought up his other foot and kicked her at the side of the head. She dropped to the ground at the side.

Warning his enemies again with a hand seal, Sasuke got Sakon off of him, freeing his arm from the Oto ninja's iron grip. His teammate was already charging at the Uchiha next. The big teen, Jirōbō, launched at him, obviously angered at Sasuke's trickery, but the move was anticipated. Sasuke was faster. The Uchiha teen went under, pivoted, and grabbed his right arm to throw him away with strength that surprised the larger teen. He went flying into a nearby tree.

Sakon twisted and attempted a strike but missed as Sasuke ducked low. Pronating the grip of his blade, Sasuke drove his kunai forward horizontally to cut Sakon's belly. Two hands came out of the Oto ninja's stomach in a cross guard to protect Sakon from receiving a nasty cut from the kunai. The hands retreated into the stomach. Twice now was Sakon able to protect himself with extra limbs.

'It's like he's got another person inside him,' Sasuke thought, grimacing some more. This had to be the work of a kekkai genkai of some sort.

Sasuke moved back before trying to receive any sort of attack from Sakon and his weird ability to grow body parts from any part of his body. Tayuya stirred, to which Sasuke took advantage of her by kicking at her head again. Sakon protected her by moving in quickly and kneeing Sasuke in the stomach with a strength that belied his relatively slight frame. With such force, Sasuke doubled over, slouching down.

Sakon took it upon himself to punch Sasuke in the back of his head. Predictably, Sasuke ended up on the ground face-first. The Uchiha lay there, unconscious for a while. Or acting like it, as he planned out his next move as he focused on his chakra. The girl barked at her ally, mad they "could have killed" Sasuke with the attack. Then, as he squinted his eyes to see as much as he could without alerting people that he was still conscious, he saw Sakura moving from behind a tree and towards them – without any more than a kunai.

'That idiot!'

Sakon, who was looking to pick up Sasuke, had to dodge Sakura's kunai throw. Sakura threw another array of projectiles, to which Sakon moved in between the attacks and went for her with blistering speed. There was no way she was going to dodge.

It was time to act. Sasuke released lightning from his pores in a technique he had been working on, directing it forward. It was in its adolescence, but Sasuke had been experimenting with the secondary effects of Lightning Release chakra. The purpose of the technique was to stun and paralyze anyone near the electrical field. Range had been a big issue, but Sakura and Sakon were fighting near him, so when Sasuke saw Sakon move close enough to him, he released the attack.

Sakon had been hit, slumping forward with twitches. Sakura looked surprised and relieved at Sasuke's supposed second wind. "Sasuke-kun!"

"Move, dammit." He took her hand, seeing Jirōbō about to sidewind her with a clothesline attack like some wrestler.

Tayuya herself went for taijutsu against Sasuke once again, which was a big mistake for her. Sharingan activated, Sasuke could easily see through her moves and poke through some holes she left in the string of her attacks. Block her punch, deflect a swipe, and then counterattack. He slammed a knee into her liver, staggering her, before uppercutting her chin with a palm strike. He had thought that had been enough to put her down, but she had recovered, wiping her mouth and rubbing her jaw. She grabbed for something in her pocket, but Sasuke wasn't having it.

This time, when he used a tiger hand seal, he released a Fire Release ninjutsu – the Gōkakyū no Jutsu to be exact as a fireball raced at her. The fat shinobi, Jirōbō, jumped in front of the ball and slammed his palms into the ground as pieces of the ground flipped up, like tatami, into a wall to protect them both from the fireball.

Music started to play, like someone whistling from a flute. For a second, he felt his skin sloughing off him into a yellowish goo, before the disruption of his chakra beat out that feeling. He flared his chakra and disrupted the foreign chakra flow. It was just in time for him to catch Jirōbō's fist. He twisted, grabbed him from under his arm, and chucked him away – right into the flute-playing Tayuya, who looked like she was ensnaring Sakura in a genjutsu.

Much to Sakura's credit, the genjutsu was quickly dispelled, not needing the Uchiha teen's intervention at all. She recovered, grabbed a kunai, and went for the kill on Tayuya – but a returning Sakon threw a punch at Sasuke's pink-haired teammate so hard she flew into a nearby tree.

Sasuke himself did not anticipate the spider web descending onto him. The fourth member of this squad, Kidōmaru had returned to help his teammates. The web gave into a full-fledged cocoon. "Figured he was going to pull something," the four-armed teen claimed with a smirk. "It would have been too easy otherwise."

Sasuke watched as Sakon kept landing blows on the defenseless Sakura's face. He gave up any chance of them winning now. "Wait! Leave her alone! I'll go with you bastards, just stop!"

Sakon let up, raising his hands into the air in a mocking surrender. Sakura's face was bruised and she was bleeding heavily. Any sort of more damage could have done some real lasting damage – assuming Sakura hadn't already gotten that with the way Sakon was beating on her a second ago.

"Kidōmaru," groaned Tayuya as she walked up to them. "Put that fucking little trash to sleep!"

"We still need him alive," reminded Jirōbō, but he too had a scowl on his face. He had placed his hand on Sasuke's exposed head, smirking. "Tasty amount of chakra you got here, trash." Sasuke felt his chakra drying up quickly.

"You calling him trash and yet the kid nearly waxed all three of you?"

"Fuck you, you six-legged freak! He just got lucky."

"Language and volume, Tayuya," chastised Jirōbō.

Tayuya barked out something else caustic that Sasuke couldn't hear. He had already fainted from the combination of being strangled by threads of the web at his neck and the massive draining of his chakra reserves.


End.

A/N: Damn, Sakura. You sucked hard this time. You need some buffs or something. Shit, girl.

But yeah, can't forget about Sakura this time around. She IS a part of Team 7 and shit, right? I got some ideas for Sakura in the future. Might be interesting, might be cringe. IDK, we will see.

We're powering through this Sasuke Retrieval/Capture Arc though. Hope you enjoyed it!