At precisely seven a.m., a bedraggled looking Sakura stumbled into the rendezvous point for the mission. It was the clearing that Team 7 had had their genin exam. Sakura invontarily shuddered as she remembered Kakashi-sensei's frightening display of lightning.
She walked onto the bridge, watching the water gurgle past. A cool breeze blew past and ruffled her short, pink hair. She let out a contented sigh and waited for the rest of her teammates to show up.
A few minutes later, a brooding Sasuke entered the clearing.
Sakura waved at him. "Good morning, Sasuke."
Sasuke let out a grunt (she had come to realize this was as good a greeting as she was going to get), before leaning against the railing, a few feet away from her.
She was about to start speaking again when a loud voice was heard:
"HEY GUYS!" yelled Naruto, running to the bridge. "What's up?"
"Hey, Naruto," said Sakura.
"Loser," Sasuke greeted.
A tick mark appeared on Naruto's forehead.
'Uh oh', she thought to herself. 'This is going to end badly. And take a long time', she added as an afterthought.
"You're the idiot!" Naruto yelled back.
"Takes an idiot to know an idiot," Sasuke replied calmly.
"Ha!" Naruto cried in glee, taking a few steps closer to him. "You just called yourself an idiot!"
Sasuke, still keeping his cool, rolled his eyes. "I'm not saying I'm the idiot. You're the loser."
Another tic mark appeared. "Jerk!"
Sakura watched this exchange with wearing patience. Inner Sakura ground her teeth and shook her fist. Normal Sakura simply sighed. It was going to be a long few days.
In the end, it took five days to get to the orb, the extra day being because of stormy weather, which was strange because it was in the middle of August.
Luckily, it wasn't as bad as Sakura had originally thought; they only argued every hour or so, not the usual five minutes' maximum, most likely resulting from the fact they only stopped twice a day for a break. Even Kakashi looked a bit winded each time they stopped.
It was not as hard to find the orb as Sakura had originally thought. They had been running for a couple of hours when they saw a sparse clearing.
Kakashi, double-checking the coordinates on the scroll, nodded his head. "This is it."
It was about half past noon, Sakura estimated, glancing at the sun. She jumped out of the tree before going toward the clearing. She had only taken a few steps before suddenly stopping. Frowning, she walked back into the shade of the trees, and once again came out.
'That's strange. Why can't I feel the sun's heat? It's August for crying out loud!'
Naruto interrupted her from her thoughts.
"I'm hungry!" Naruto and his stomach both groaned in unison.
Sakura rolled her eyes. "Geez, Naruto. We just ate."
Giving her a stubborn look, he shook his head wildly. "So? When my stomach calls I answer!"
Kakashi, paying no attention them, began to walk toward the middle of the clearing. Sasuke followed, hands in pockets, casual but alert.
Seeing nothing else she could do, she shrugged it off, blaming it on the freakish weather patterns happening in the Land of Fire. This year had been one of the strangest yet; thunder storms in May, hail in April…
"Naruto, we can worry about your stomach later," Kakashi called over his shoulder, lazily waving a hand at him. "I need to teach you guys about what to do in this situation. Sasuke, Sakura? Do you know?"
Sakura smiled, musing long forgotten. "Of course, Kakashi-sensei! A ninja must always scout the area for danger, as well as memorizing their surroundings so that they will know if anyone or anything is hiding to ambush them."
Kakashi nodded in approval. "Good job, Sakura."
Sasuke, not to be one-upped, added, "They also have to check for illusion traps."
Before Kakashi could even speak, Naruto interrupted.
"Alright, that's enough book talk! Let's go check it out," he cried, obviously happy to be at the destination.
Throughout their conversation, they had walked to the middle of the clearing. Kakashi stopped a good ten feet from the object, and the rest of the group did the same.
The item of interest was a simple, white ball. In fact, it looked quite normal besides the fact it was a giant ball floating off the ground in the middle of the forest.
Well, she had seen weirder.
Kakashi surveyed the area, checking for immediate danger. Deeming it safe, he stuck his hands in his pockets. "Go check the surrounding land."
Team 7 nodded, going in opposite directions. Naruto glared at Sasuke as he walked away.
'I'm going to find something before that jerk does!'
Sasuke smirked as he went toward a few large rocks.
'Naruto has no chance. If anyone will find anything, it'll be me.'
Sakura, guessing the boys' thoughts, shook her head.
'They're so immature.'
After a moment, she smiled.
'But, I hope Sasuke wins.'
Kakashi watched his team with amusement.
It never failed to make him internally smile at Naruto and Sasuke's antics, though they reminded him of his younger self and Obito. Although it brought back unpleasant memories, it was refreshing to see such amusing acts performed in somewhat "friendly" competitions. He just had to make sure it didn't go too far…
He glanced at Sakura, who was waiting with him. He let a small smile grace his face.
'Smart girl. She knows all the action will happen with me.'
He threw his arms over his head and leaned back.
"Well, we better go check that thing out before Naruto and Sasuke come back." Rather, blow it up some way, somehow and mess up this entire mission.
Sakura's eyes lit up and she nodded excitedly. "Yes! Of course, Kakashi-sensei," she added more seriously.
Kakashi nodded and walked over toward the object, Sakura trailing a few steps away. It was hip height and about three feet wide and three feet tall. At first glance, it seemed to be a normal white color; bizarrely, it was also a perfect sphere. Definitely not something you would find in the middle of a forest. Overall, though, he supposed he had seen weirder.
Now close to it, he gestured with his head to the opposite side of the orb. "Check for any inconsistencies over there."
Sakura, looking slightly nervous (nevertheless still excited), gave a murmur of acknowledgment before slipping around and facing Kakashi on the other side.
Her bright green eyes inspected over the orb thoroughly, looking for anything different from the original color or shape of it.
Leaving Sakura to her scrutinizing, he checked his side. The orb itself was a strange milky-white color, and, when he peered closer, seemed to be moving. Almost like a drop of cream in coffee.
It was mesmerizing: the constant swirl of the substance… there were so many shades of white! Pearl, chiffon, cotton – there were too many to name. It was so beautiful in its own way, he felt like he could just slip away and be free…
"Kai!" he commanded.
Expecting to see a different landscape, he was surprised to find the clearing exactly like it was before. Nothing had changed.
Kakashi frowned. It wasn't genjutsu, though the exclamation had snapped him out of it. It had felt similar to the action of stopping himself when he was zoning out. So why had he felt the urge to let go? Be free. That was what he had thought.
But free from what?
Suddenly, he remembered Sakura. He lifted his head up, and, to his worriment, saw her zoned out just liked he had been. In his peripheral, he saw Naruto close by walking quickly toward them, not looking forward.
Kakashi knew he had to act quickly. Paying Naruto no attention, he sidestepped around the orb and – to his horror – saw her reaching out to touch the dangerous object. He reached out to pull her back.
Kakashi had just gotten a grip on her qipao dress when he felt a sudden force push him forward. Realizing he couldn't stop the momentum, he kept his hold on Sakura and – using his other arm- braced himself.
The last thing he saw was a blinding flash of light, and then…
Sorry for the cliffy! I'm still getting the plot worked out in my head, but it will come soon-ish. Thank you for all the loyal favorite-rs and followers for staying with me during this LONG updating time! Your support is much appreciated.