I remember when I first started Airborne and how I thought it was such a good idea (I still do), how I thought about it and other various fanfics during school and while doing chores and such, and I get the same feeling for this. Apparently some of think positively of Seven as well, according to the poll I put up recently. I already had three names I was certain I wanted to include here, and you guys helped me choose the other names.

Also this chapter contains first of many very obvious signs that this is indeed a MultiSaku, so I guess I must also include my first warning of OOC-ness. As in, pretty men eating each other over rights to the sweet territory that is Sakura.

Which samurai will we see here, I wonder? And I wonder how many of you will be tempted to check out the actual Samurai 7 because of this story? Several I hope. Please?


April 2nd, several hours after sunset, Tanzaku Town, Fire Province


The letter was short and simple, though she would have liked to tell Tsunade how she missed her, her home, how dangerous and dark the city truly was, ask why anyone would want to come here and be polluted by everything it could stuff down your throat—but no. She could not waste money spilling her thoughts onto paper now. This short method would cost the least amount of money (seeing as Tanzaku mailing centers charged by the number of characters) and also the least amount of time. Any time she wasn't sleeping, apologizing to Deidara-san for wasting his time looking for other samurai, or practicing her form was to be spent wandering the town looking for recruits. Sakura read the letter once more, hoping it would give her new drive to go out searching again.

Tsunade-sensei,

I have found one samurai. His name is Iwa Deidara and I witnessed his amazing skill myself. He is a true warrior, and you wouldn't believe how eager he is to help! I am sorry, but I am choosing to stay away from home indefinitely with Deidara-san to look for the remaining five samurai we need. I hope to return home soon and don't you dare give up the battle! Love always, Sakura

"Love always, hm?" She looked over her shoulder and saw her new recruit standing over her, bending down to look at her writing. That one eye of his was narrowed with strange menace. She would have liked to tuck it away, but she needed his good graces. "…My sensei is like my mother." she murmured. "I shouldn't be paying more than I must to tell her I miss her, but it's just a few more characters, I guess. I haven't run out of money yet. Don't worry, I can still pay to feed you while we're in town."

He seemed to ignore that. The dark stare faded. Friendliness sank in its place. (The mood swings this man had!) "I'm sorry, mm. 'Love always' of course makes me think of a lover before a sensei or mother."

Sitting in the natural vegetation canopy of a public garden as they were, it was difficult to see his expression in the numerous shadows. She couldn't help but laugh a bit. "Tsunade-sensei told me that if I could balance my combat skills and a relationship with a lover at once, I'd be a god. Of course, she was drunk at the time."

"Your sensei drinks?" He sounded a bit interested now. "And you?"

"Hardly. Tsunade-sensei let me once, but I can't remember much of it." She frowned slightly. "She says two cups had me limp as a corpse on the floor. She can down whole jugs and not get…too crazy." Deidara was chuckling, and probably smiling. She made him smile quite often, she noticed, sometimes without doing anything.


April 3rd, late morning, Tanzaku town, Fire Province


"And you say a young woman spouted this nonsense to you? Where the hell's your brain, man? Sleep with her and move on! Tanzaku's full o' wenches who'll say they're the daughter of the emperor for a hot meal!" Deidara's fourteenth possibility of the day walked away, one of said wenches hanging drunkenly on his tanned, arm. He sighed, remembered he was standing in the middle of the street, and walked to the side to stay out of the way of the innumerable moving people.

He leaned against the outside of a grocer's, holding his cloak in his arm as the heat of the day came on, leaving him in the black and netted undershirt. 'It's hard to tell samurai from food vendor sometimes. It took me till just a moment ago to realize that man was a weakling inside. Can she tell?' Sakura did not seem like a fool that would ask any formidable-looking man for help. She must have seen some worthy quality in that Shidei Masako before his vicious insults attracted a crowd, and him, around them.

Well, he had to give thanks for that. He would never have met her otherwise.

What a strange feeling to immediately attach oneself to another person. They had separated for three hours at most, and already his drive for recruiting samurai had begun to drain. He wanted to be with Sakura. Talk about her drinking-happy sensei. Her warm village. Her warm voice. Her.

Several shops down the road two men were clashing swords, but he could tell by how they staggered and growled at every blow that they weren't worth his time. 'Sakura's time.' He walked in the opposite direction, eyes prowling, senses grabbing, feeling the air. All he knew, he used. It was simple eyesight that caught a figure sitting on a roof some thirty feet above him. But it was no threat. With a hard breath he kicked off a passing horse-drawn cart, off the side of another building, and landed with a soft sigh next to Sakura.

She sat cross legged, leaning slightly backwards with her arms supporting her. Relaxed, sweet. It brought a predictable smile. "Is it easier to find possibilities up here, Sakura?" he asked, sitting next to her. She eyed him almost warily, perhaps because he had "forgotten" to add a formal suffix of some kind to her name, and then moved half-lidded eyes back to the street below.

"It's about the same. But I have a distraction now."

"Me?"

She laughed, a beautiful sound. His ears ached for more of it. And some other sound. "Yes, I suppose." No, that wasn't what he wanted to hear. "Keep looking at the street. I think someone is watching me."

'Bastards! Die!'

"Tell me where they are." he said aloud. "I'll kill them."

"No!" she whispered shakily, still with a neutral face. "If he can hide himself from me, he has talents we can use. He might be one of the five I need. I'll turn around and face him later, if he's still watching. I'll surprise him—"

"Should I call you brave or stupid for wanting to face a man who stalks you?"

A shy grin spread over her face till she looked sheepish, and a steadily growing part of him resisted pouncing on her. "Both."

He ignored that and said sternly, "I'll follow you silently, too. If someone attacks you in a dark corner, I'll blow their goddamn head off." Her face was blank and staring and jaw slightly parted. Unsure of what to say. When she muttered a little flatly, "Your devotion means a lot to my village," he narrowed his eye in slight frustration and replied perhaps a little too hotly, "I'm devoted to you," and gave in to the temptation to place his hand on hers. The mouth on it was kept wisely closed and the air around them was quiet and empty of even a breeze.

She kept her eyes trained on his and slowly stood up. He went with her and made certain their hands stayed together. "Deidara-san, I'm going to go look for samurai again. Please let me go."

The smirk came on by itself and he let it stay. "Make me."

She reached for her sword—what were those carved on the hilt? Flowers or birds?—and unsheathed it slowly. She was giving him time to release her hand, and the moment before she tried to strike him, perhaps he would. But Iwa Deidara did not fall back from intimidation. Not from armed swordsmen, not from the creature who had so recently captured his heart. It was completely out now, and moving to a good striking position with unnecessary slowness. "Deidara-san. My hand, please."

"Just Deidara is fine, un."

He let Sakura's hand free and jumped down into the street, surprising a few locals. One particularly angry one picked something out of his burlap bag and threw it at him. The blonde dodged it with a laugh of joy. His declaration was made. She couldn't be ignorant of him now.


April 2nd, just before noon, Tanzaku town, Fire Province


Konoha needed protectors. Konoha needed protectors. Konoha needed protectors—a near-stranger was attracted to her?—KONOHA NEEDED PROTECTORS.

Tsunade had been saying for years how surprising it was that her apprentice had never come up to her asking for advice on dealing with the opposite gender. Sakura had seen eyes in her direction many times. But she never saw the people those eyes belonged to coming up and talking with her.

What god had she angered this time, that it would have to happen for the first time when her home was literally in a life and death situation? Better yet, what made the male in question think they had time for something stupid like this right now?

Perhaps not stupid. Just untimely. But she could tell him that after Konoha was saved. Deidara-san was being friendlier to her than any boy, outside of Konoha, had ever been.

He was also very purposely distracting her from the most important mission of her life. He could be romantically interested later. Maybe she would tell him how she loved to wake up before the sun and he would laugh, just as he laughed and smiled at nearly anything she said. But her mission came first. Always first.

Looking around, Sakura realized she had spent so much time thinking about Iwa Deidara that she had been walking mindlessly and now had no idea where she was. She turned around, and around again, and mentally scoffed at herself for losing track of herself to such an extent. And because of someone who was hardly more than a stranger! A man and his two sons shoved by her, a black horse in tow and she skipped out of the way. Any more wispy, dancing thoughts of men and she'd be run over by a team of prostitutes if she wasn't careful. But at least Tsunade hadn't been as drunk as Sakura thought her to be when she chose Tanzaku town as their next search point. The greatest success so far because of—

Konoha needed protectors.

Any one leaf of thought on Iwa Deidara bred into a tree and then a grove, and she stopped it from becoming a forest. She walked purposefully now, eyes and ears alert for swords and knives hidden in sashes and belts, smooth conversations with hidden meanings slipping underneath, and eyes equaling the intensity of hers.

'Speaking of eyes following me…I can't feel that person who was watching me before…' she thought to herself. A loose strand of hair fell into her eye and she brushed it back with one pale finger, wondering if she appeared unaware. 'And maybe I am. I don't feel eyes in the back of my head anymore…did he leave? Really?' She wanted to turn around and look through the crowds and then maybe at the rooftops to make sure, but that would be a painfully obvious. If she didn't feel him again soon she would have to disregard him as well as his excellent hunting skills. Damn! Her fingers curled. But she couldn't waste time.

She figured that eyes were the best signal of whether or not a man was a true possibility for her recruit. If a man met Sakura's eyes and curiosity or admiration, or simply acknowledgment, grew there, then he was a worthy soul, though his combat skills would have to be tested some other way. Anyone whose eyes filled with lust or amusement or even pity…well, she couldn't jam the hilt of a sword in their eye no matter how much she wanted to. There were innocent children even in Tanzaku. And a temper was most feared when it showed itself rarely, hers no exception.

A group of women eating indoors pointed at her, and a more timid-looking one shoved the sliding door shut. Sakura couldn't help but scoff. Everywhere except in Konoha, it seemed, men had such a hold on the fairer sex that the relationship was all but slavery. Whenever people began to stare at her and the weapon she so boldly carried, she would think of this, and her pride at having risen so far above that, and her embarrassment would die down.

Another group of eyes on her now. Four men sitting in a neat line outside a shop, about Tsunade's age—but who actually looked Tsunade's age—gave her a typical jaw-dropped stare of amazement. They looked harmless enough, but she wasted no time meeting their eyes and attracting their attention more than she could help. The bearded, one-eyed one at the end had the gall to reach out as she passed and try to touch her thigh. She kicked sideways at the hand, effectively making the man punch himself. She turned the corner with a small grin.

This next street had an inn twice as tall as any of the other buildings on it, with a small crowd at the front. Intrigued, Sakura jogged up and stood on tiptoe to see over the people. Just inside the inn was a restaurant sort of area with a large table in the middle at which a very chubby man was surrounded by empty, alcoholic-smelling cups. His audience egged him on to take more and more. Curling her lip, she shoved past the three young men who had gathered behind her to watch and went on again—and saw eyes that caught hers like a fish on a spear.

She turned back and followed the stranger halfway down the street, agilely slipping over a horse-drawn cart and through a throng of vendors to get to him. "Excuse me, excuse me!" she called to him. He turned around and she wasted only a moment to meet his sharp, icy eyes and tried not to dwell on the impressive, two-pronged spear he carried. They were colored no differently than any other blue-eyed person she had met, but it was the silent intensity with which he used to look at her, tearing up and down her person, which caught her attention.

She bowed first. Very important step, that. "Sir, your eyes tell me you've seen something very dark. Were you in the war?"

He raised one terribly thin brow. Suspicious, unwilling. This hadn't started well... "I was, onna-san. But I don't think my eyes are anything special."

"Eyes tell more than swords." she told him. "If I hadn't seen them, I wouldn't ask, but I'm looking for samurai, sir, because my village is being attacked by thieves. We can feed and arm you, and—"

"And pay?" he asked.

The vulnerable piece of her inside cringed and wilted. Outwardly, she tried not to look ashamed as she shook her head. "No. We can't pay you."

Whatever willingness had been in his eyes burned away. "If you can't pay a single samurai, then you should consider hanging yourself. It's even cheaper." He turned around, all but kicking dust at her, and stomped off. Again Sakura's fingers curled. The knuckles cracked. Were she a tiger, her claws would be out and scraping the dirt.

'Arrogance arrogance indifference insolence insult SPITE SPITE COLD-HEARTED DEMONS EVERYWHERE!' It would have done wonders to have shouted that random fury aloud, but—temper, temper. Not now. She looked at her feet, as small and shadowed and Konoha seemed now. 'Kami-sama, please. Tsunade-sensei and I can't win on our own. Why won't you give us help?'

Another pair of feet topped with shapeless, orange pants stopped before hers, and their owner asked, "Uh, 'scuse me, can I talk to you?"

They were probably not Kami-sama's feet.

Sakura looked up, a little more than up seeing as, like most men, he was taller than she. His hair and eyes were the same respective blonde and blue as Iwa Deidara's—'I won't be coming home with six blonde men, will I?'—but much shorter, and closer to her age than Iwa. He had on a foreign-looking coat, unbuttoned, red and tipped with a black flame design. This didn't intrigue her more than the whiskers he had on his cheeks, though. "Can I help you?" she asked.

His smile was just as great and genuine as Iwa Deidara's, too. "You can show me your chakra, please."

Her fingers fell limp. "What?"

"Don't lie to me," he smiled again, almost chuckling. "I can feel it. You know what it is, you have it, and you know you have it. Mine told me so. Can I see?"

A stranger had asked to see—asked to see!—her chakra. Pigs would fly next. She tried to stall. "If you tell me first what you mean by yours 'told you so'."

"Well, sure. Mine's name is Kyuubi. It looks like a big, orangey fox and he talks to me sometimes. I was just walking around and he told me to look at the samurai vixen. I thought he was joking with me…" His sweet smile stayed, though his eyes burned dark. "And that's you. Please…" His eyes stayed locked on hers and his hand drifted up awkwardly, as though on strings. "Please let me…feel?"

First she looked around, hoping no one was watching. Whatever this young man thought, chakra was nothing to show off on the street like new clothes. There were fewer people around than there had been before, probably because they were drifting away to find restaurants with lunch hour specials. Safer than most streets in Tanzaku would be. She stuck her hand out and he grabbed it straightaway. She immediately tried to pull back; even though her sensei had had chakra, it had never felt so strong. So evil.

It sucked and clawed at her like nothing she'd ever felt, pulling things from her she couldn't see or feel, and in exchange…gave something back…she could feel them. Memories?

She knew without being told that this young man was Naruto. Seventeen, like herself. He hadn't eaten anything but ramen for two weeks, but that was fine. He had aching, angry memories of people who did not accept him. Did not believe the stories he told about a monster inside him. Kyuubi nurtured those memories and wanted him to kill. Naruto was a good person and would not. More than any of this, she felt the Kyuubi-chakra all around her. It trapped her as a lion trapped a mouse, and the same figure of speech could be used for their differences in power.

Naruto let her hand down, letting their fingers hang laces for a moment longer than necessary. She looked up and saw him still smiling, now slightly panting, and blue eyes softly glowing red. "You're Sakura. You love sunrises. And Konoha is in trouble. You're a girl and you're a samurai." He laughed. Well, it was practically a contradictory statement. Then his eyes turned dark again, this time with confusion. "But…your chakra doesn't have a body, so it doesn't talk to you. You don't have an orange fox…or anything. It's just you. It's always just you."

The atmosphere would have turned uncomfortable if he hadn't laughed again. Another simple laugh, the laugh of a child who didn't lie and had no secrets to shield. "I'm Uzumaki Naruto. Kyuubi says he told you that."

Didn't Konoha need protectors? Sakura gathered her scattered, startled self and shoved her torso down in a fierce bow to the chakra-bearing stranger. He stepped back, looking embarrassed, and started to say something that started with, "don't," but she interrupted him. "Uzumaki Naruto-san, yes, I'm Sakura, and I am from Konoha." She rose up again. "Did Kyuubi tell you anything else about Konoha?"

"Yeah," he said with an overenthusiastic nod. "You need bodyguards—I mean samurai!—to protect it from evil people. Well, I'm your samurai!" He shoved aside the left side of his cloak and lifted a worn sword from an even more tattered blue sash on his waist. He unsheathed it and slashed it on the air in front of him. "Show me these bastards, Sakura-chan! I'll cut 'em all down!"

"Samurai number two." she muttered to herself. Naruto looked over at her questioningly, and she scurried to find a reply. "I, I said…um, you see, for the past hour or so I've been thinking that someone has been watching me, and I don't suppose that was you, was it?"

Once again Naruto's expression warped. His hands tightened on the hilt of the old sword. "No. Kyuubi saw you and pointed you out to me five minutes ago. I just now…" His head titled up slightly as he trailed off, looking over her head and gazing up the now-empty road. Not distracted now, Sakura spread out her senses, and immediately felt the same red intensity on her back, and on Naruto. How long it had been watching her and taking advantage of her stupid carelessness, she would never know. She turned to face it.

A black figure with a red hood stood alone in the middle of the road. Her watcher, without a doubt.

Closer inspection and a handle on her uncertainty and mild panic told her it was a redheaded man wearing a short-sleeved, maroon cloak over an expensive-looking undershirt. Perhaps even more threatening than something hooded and unknown. She would have to see. Her new recruit stepped in front of her, limply holding his sword in one hand.

"What the hell do you want with my vixen?"

She grasped her own sword before anything, out of habit, and then burst out, "Naruto-san, what in the world—?"

"Who are you?" the redhead called. "There's never been something like you in this world. What are you?"

Naruto held his sword steady in two hands now, leaning slightly forward. "I'm the samurai who'll kick your ass, you creep, if you don't back off!"

"Don't pretend you're a samurai because you can hold a sword, stupid brat. I mean her." Naruto ignored the second comment in favor of screeching, "I am SO a samurai!" but Sakura stepped out from behind him so the redhead could see her. She noted thick lashes and a rather lean figure beneath the cloak, as well as a cloth-wrapped, child-sized pack hanging off his back and sticking out slightly near his arm.

The thick-lashes eyes became slightly wider. "Yes. You. You." He walked forward and stopped at a barely respectable distance. "You radiate power. Like art." He stared more and more and Sakura's hand began to cramp more and more as she held her battle-ready stance.

Naruto butted in once more. "Like 'art,' you said? What've you been smoking, man? Sakura-chan, let's go, this guy's weird." He grabbed her hand and pulled her back.. The redhead's arm lashed out sideways and a dark appendage burst from behind his back and struck Naruto's hand.

It was an arm, longer than any person's arm, and it stretched from the pack he carried. "Pretending to be a samurai and now her lover." he spat aggressively. "Leave this maiden alone. She has better things to do." The arm retracted into his pack but he paid it no mind.

"Sakura-san, yes? Hailing from Konoha, three days' walk from here?" She nodded, stiff and battle-ready and not sure if it was appropriate to stay in such a pose now. "I would like to extend my services to your village and its plight. Will you have me?"

Samurai recruits coming left and right! "Of course! But please tell me your name."

"Akasuna Sasori." He bowed, but hardly very low. Sakura could sense his opinion of himself. "I'd rather be merely Sasori to you."

"The hell kind of a trick are you trying to pull?" The blonde grabbed Sakura's sword-holding arm and pulled her back to his side. "What's that thing on your back, a giant doll? Sakura-chan's village doesn't need men who play with dolls as protectors!"

"I'm a puppeteer, you insolent fool!" he growled, eyes blazing. "You might have recognized that, and perhaps how I move it without touch, if you knew what a samurai is. For example—"

"For example, me!" Naruto interrupted. "And maybe you would have recognized that if weren't so busy trying to weasel your skinny ass into her bed!"

"Only someone as desperate as you would think of such a thing." Sasori scoffed.

Naruto grabbed her arm again, as Sasori might say, desperately. "Sakura-chan is mine!"

"I wonder what cow's ass that idea dropped from."

"AACK!"

Naruto's hand shot to the collarbone his cloak and undershirt exposed to cover the bleeding cut that suddenly appeared there. Without a cry of surprise to match the blonde's, Sasori looked down at his matching little wound and regarded it almost indifferently. Sakura sheathed her sword, attempting to do the same with her anger. "If you keep arguing like this I'll take your severed, jabbering heads back to Konoha instead of all of you!" she growled quietly. She thought of adding something else, but changed her mind, and unsheathed her sword again. The tip nearly poked Naruto's nose.

"And I'm not anybody's, Naruto-san. A person usually makes claims like that over a person they actually know. Please keep your damn mouth shut until you've known me for more than five minutes, please!" She sheathed it again and whipped around to face Sasori. "And don't egg him on, Sasori-san! Neither of us will be able to sleep tonight if you do."

Something quite like, "I think he'd like to arrange that whether we argue or not," came from behind her, and a more obvious remark from the redhead, "I think you're poorly masking your desire for the same thing," were comments she both ignored.

Her legs felt a little weak for a moment when they both took a break from glaring at each other to gaze quite—admiringly?—at her, so she chose to turn around and head back to the public park where she and Deidara had slept last night. "Come on. I'll take you back to Deidara-san and buy something for you all to…eat…"

Deidara…Hadn't he said he was going to…

"Sasori-teme? What the hell are you doing here, un?"

Whatever kept young Sakura from biting something in pure frustration, she savored it. 'Tsunade-sensei…wish me luck till I come home…'


I don't think I've ever written such an obvious fight over Sakura before. I feel so bold and brave, wahaha.

So, now Sakura has recruited Naruto and Sasori (I cut the "no" from Sasori's name; that's on purpose). I had great fun typing their little fight (and lots of time for the whole chapter since we had three snow days in a row over here!). By the way, both Deidara and Sakura's rejects this chapter were just random guys. Not important.

Naruto (who is wearing his "sage mode" outfit in this story because I find it quite impressive) has a hella huge amount of chakra, which has molded together to become an entity which calls itself Kyuubi, and because of it, Naruto literally hears voices in his head, poor guy. And as you Samurai 7 fans may have noticed, Sasori refuses to believe he's actually a samurai, so he, Naruto, is the Kikuchiyo of our group. Sasori has chakra as well, but not very much, only enough to make strings to control his puppets, so honestly Naruto would stomp him in a chakra battle royale, haha!

Also this chapter was mainly in Sakura's POV, though in the future I think I'm going to do a bit less, since Sakura has a secret motive that will be known to you only at the end, and since I can't have you guys knowing that motive, or even which guy(s?) she'll end up preferring. We do know now, though, that she's seventeen, that underneath her too-polite exterior she hides a vicious temper, loves sunrises and...maybe...other things...