-Set at the beginning of Shippuden, the Elders send Sakura off as a hunter-nin, wishing for her death as a way to weaken Tsunade's political powers. Sakura agrees to prove them wrong, but what she didn't know was that Orochimaru's involved! Oh, god… Just what did she get herself into?


Yay, another chapter! But you guys, if you read my Shinobi, Mirrorcle World fanfic already then you know this chapter coincides with Mirrorcle World's 1st and 2nd chapters. For those who don't know, there's a lot of skipping in this chapter because I know you all know what happens. Thank you and please enjoy!


"It's been about two and a half years…"

"Indeed…"

Episode Two

~His Return ~ His Fellow Jinchūriki, Her Fellow Medic~

The knucklehead dropped his backpack onto the ground and jumped onto a pole, just enjoying the feeling of the wind against his body. Boy, was he glad to be home!

His mentor chuckled. "He's certainly cheerful today, isn't he?"

"Alright! It hasn't changed one bit!" the boy yelled, glancing over the village. Suddenly, he caught sight of a new craving. He laughed. "So they've added Old Lady Tsunade's ugly old mug to the mountain? Ha!"

"You've grown a lot, haven't you, Naruto?"

The boy turned around and smiled, jumping over to the rooftop. "Kakashi-sensei! You haven't changed at all!" Once he landed, he reached into his pocket. "Oh, yeah, I've got a present for you!"

"Really?" Kakashi asked, wondering what the knucklehead had in stored for him. He could always expect something unexpected from that idiot.

✿。.:**:.。✿

"Sakura?"

"Yes?"

"That Naruto kid… It seems that he's returned to Konoha."

"Oh? Really?" Though she was smiling, her voice had a hint of sadness in them. The young kunoichi turned her eyes back to the window. "That's great…" But that doesn't mean that I'll be able to spend any time with him… I'll have to leave soon…

Tsunade saw her apprentice's face and sighed. She never liked seeing people down in the dumps especially Sakura. "I'll speak to the Elders," she said. "I'll try to see if they'll allow you to go on a mission with him."

A smile ran through Sakura's face. "Arigato, Tsunade-shisou."

✿。.:**:.。✿

"What?" Kakashi was truly in shock, Naruto's present in his hands. "Th-this… You… How…? This . . . this is…"

"This is the latest in the Icha-Icha series after three years!" Naruto finished his former sensei's sentence, smiling at his teacher's face. "It's really boring, but you'll still like it! I think…"

Idiot… Jiraiya crossed his arms and sulked. A kid like you wouldn't understand the beauty of that book… It's still an unreleased rare item too…

✿。.:**:.。✿

"Right! Next stop, straight to Ichiraku ramen!"

And as Naruto started off running, he left his two teachers behind. It would seem some things would never change nor would Naruto ever tire of his ramen obsession.

"As promised," Jiraiya said once Naruto was out of earshot. "I'll leave Naruto back into your care, but I fear that the Akatsuki has been growing impatient… They may make an attempt on Naruto soon… I'm going to head around and gather as much information as I can."

"I expected as much," Kakashi said, prying his eyes away from his new book. "But I have something to speak to you about."

"What is it?"

"I'm sure Tsunade will speak to you about it soon, but I just wanted to get it off of my chest." Kakashi said, a fatherly tone in his voice. "The Elders are sending Sakura off on an ANBU's mission by herself."

"And you want me to check in on her every now and then?"

"Yes, if you could…"

Jiraiya sighed. "It'll be cutting into my time, but sure. I'll take care of the cherry blossom for ya. But if I could ask, why are the Elders sending her off? Surely, they could send someone else—someone more suitable for the job and someone who's not as young… She's just a girl! Why would they send her?"

"They fear that Tsunade has gotten more powerful politically in the past couple of years," Kakashi explained.

"And they want to keep an eye on the most powerful ninja in her arsenal, is that so?"

"Yes. With Sakura out of the way, Naruto's completely unaware of anything that goes on within Konoha's political scrutiny. But I fear that the Elders might not stop with just sending Sakura away."

"You think they might get rid of her?"

"The Elders have been rumored to do so when it comes to securing their power. They're getting greedy… They'll turn to drastic measures soon."

"AHH!" Naruto's scream brought the two out of their conversation. "Sakura-chan!"

"Eh? Naruto?" And on the girl's first observation of her teammate, she found something appalling. "You've . . . you've gotten taller than me?" she asked him.

"Huh?" Naruto glanced at her and smiled. "I guess I did!" But just to make sure, he started measuring himself.

Sakura giggled at his antics. Hm… Naruto, you've become really strong since I last saw you, right? I won't have to worry . . . right?

"Naruto-niichan!" And Konohamaru appeared in his sexy jutsu form, phasing Kakashi and Jiraiya. But once Konohamaru released the jutsu, Naruto just chuckled.

"Konohamaru," he said. "I'm sorry, but I'm not a kid anymore. From now on, you shouldn't use that jutsu either."

Sakura, though a bit surprised, smiled. So… she thought, you haven't just matured in appearance. That makes me a bit sad… You really have become amazing, Naruto… I'm sure you've come back with a lot of great jutsu too, right?

"Such a jutsu is now mediocre!" Naruto suddenly yelled, almost angrily. "Behold! The new perverted ninjutsu I've been developing! Here we go!"

Right, like some . . . "PERVERTED JUTSU! YOU IDIOT!" Sakura's fist collided with Naruto's face, and he went flying. And once he landed, she grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and shook him like crazy. "I WAS WRONG!" she screamed, tears almost coming out of her eyes. "YOU HAVEN'T CHANGED ONE BIT! I HAVEN'T SEEN YOU FOR TWO YEARS AND, WITHIN TWO MINUTES, YOU JUMP STRAIGHT TO THAT! YOU IDIOT! HOW AM I NOT SUPPOSED TO WORRY ABOUT YOU! HOW—"

"Anoo… Sakura?" Kakashi asked, Konohamaru holding onto his leg behind him. "Calm down, would you? Konohamaru here is terrified…" And so am I, though I won't admit it…

"Jiraiya… Naruto has . . . grown more and more like you in these two past years, hasn't he…?" Tsunade asked, a bit annoyed with this outcome.

Well, with that strength and beauty… You've seem to have raised a Tsunade junior, no? the old man thought, feeling a bit bad for his student.

"Right… Well, anyway," Tsunade said. "The nostalgia ends here… Kakashi!"

And the jonin closed his book, leaving the two teammates to wonder about what was going on.

"Well, it's been a while, hasn't it?" Kakashi asked. "From now on, the two of you will come with me on team-related missions. It's different than before. It's no longer teacher and pupil. Starting today, we're equal Konoha shinobi."—he took out two small bells from his pocket—"But first, I'm curious as to how you've developed. The rules are the same as when I first met you two. If you don't come at me with the intent to kill, you'll never succeed in getting the bells."

✿。.:**:.。✿

"The rules are the same," Kakashi repeated once they reached their destination. "No matter how you do it, try to get the bells away from me. You have until sunrise tomorrow."

But his two former students were half-listening and half-looking around their old training fields, reminiscence running through their minds.

"This place… I've missed it." Naruto sighed.

"Ah, that's right." Kakashi said. "This is where you first trained, isn't it?"

"Team seven…" Sakura said, wallowing in her memories. "The three-man team…"

"That time, Sasuke was around too . . . wasn't he?" Kakashi said.

And suddenly, an ominous aura descended upon the land. And both Sakura and Naruto went into their respective fetal positions.

Sasuke's name is a taboo for these two, huh? "Well, then . . . shall we begin?"

"So . . . you won't do it reading the book this time?" Naruto asked, standing up and stretching.

"Or did you already finish it?" Sakura inquired as she put on her gloves.

"No… I think I should save the enjoyment for later. Besides, this time . . . for some reason,"—he lifted his headband to reveal his sharingan eye—"I get the feeling that I should take this seriously too."

And then Naruto threw a few shuriken at the jonin. Kakashi deflected them all with a kick and, once Naruto jumped into the air, he threw his own shuriken at the boy. Naruto quickly created a shadow clone. The clone grabbed onto his arm and pulled him out of the way.

Clever! Sakura thought. He couldn't move in the air, so he used a clone to help him dodge. Perhaps I don't have to worry, after all…

The clone turned into a large four-pointed blade but, before Naruto could throw it, Kakashi restrained him. However, unlike the last time, Naruto was a step ahead. Another clone appeared behind Kakashi, holding a kunai to the jonin's back.

His use of his clones and his timing… He's gotten smarter. "But your haste hasn't changed from the last time we did this. I didn't say start yet." But you've matured, haven't you, Naruto? "Alright, start!" And Kakashi disappeared in a cloud of smoke. He was nowhere to be seen.

Right… Above… Left… Behind… If he's not anywhere then… "Below!" Sakura yelled as she brought her fist down to the ground, causing an insane earthquake no one expected.

What insane power! Kakashi thought as his hiding place was compromised. Tsunade didn't just teach her medical jutsu, did she?

Sakura smiled. "Found you!"

Naruto could barely keep the grin off of his face. I should really stop playing around in front of her… She could really kill me!

She builds up the maximum amount of chakra in her fist. Then she releases it in an instant… Kakashi observed. Without precise chakra control, she couldn't do that… It's a real feat… Medical jutsu plus amazing strength… No, that's not all. Because Sakura was originally a genjutsu type, she may become an even better kunoichi than the Fifth… Time for me to stop playing around…

✿。.:**:.。✿

"I already knew it, but . . . the sharingan is really amazing…" Sakura said, taking in a few breaths. "And not only that, his seal-making speed . . . it's really too fast… If we could stop him from using both of his hands . . . then we could get the bells."

"Yeah… Kakashi-sensei's unreasonably strong…" Naruto replied, keeping an eye out for their silver-haired opponent. "He's smarter than Shikamaru… And he has a better sense of smell than Kiba… He has better control of his sharingan than Sasuke and better taijutsu than Bushy Brows."

"But even someone like him has a weak point!" Sakura clarified. "If we just think about it…"

And once Naruto thought it over, he realized something important. "Ah…! He has a weak point!"

"Wh-what is it?" Sakura asked, once Naruto started snickering.

"Oh, come now, Sakura-chan. Think about it carefully… If you really think back about how Kakashi-sensei's been until now, you'll understand…"

"What?"

✿。.:**:.。✿

They're here! Kakashi quickly got onto his feet as the two jumped out of the trees. They really have to be joking, making a direct attack like this…

"Now, Naruto!" Sakura yelled.

"Right! Hey, Kakashi-sensei! The last joke in Icha-Icha Tactics, the truth is that the main character—"

What? Kakashi was now scared—well, not scared. There was really no word to describe what he was feeling at that moment. He covered his ears without thinking, but he could read Naruto's lips. Oh, would the torture not end? Dammit! Because of the sharingan, I can tell what he says from just his lips! And so, he closed his eyes against his better judgement.

Chirin~chirin!

"Huh?" When Kakashi opened his eyes, he was met with the smiling faces of his two students.

"A ninja should look underneath the underneath. Right, Kakashi?" Sakura asked as she and Naruto burst into laughter. They just defeated the copy-cat ninja!

✿。.:**:.。✿

"You two have become strong… I'm amazed that you were able to get the bells."

Naruto laughed. "Well, maybe I've surpassed you, Kakashi-sensei!"

"What are you saying?" Sakura asked, shaking her head. "You conceited idiot…"

"But anyway, I'm still young…" Kakashi said. "And recently, I developed a new jutsu…"

However, at that moment, Naruto's stomach rumbled. "Hey, we haven't gone home or to Ichiraku Ramen yet!" he said to Sakura, ignoring whatever Kakashi had just said.

"Yeah, I'm a bit hungry form training yesterday…" Sakura replied. She, too, forgot about whatever her former sensei was saying.

And so Kakashi was left to gloom and doom in his lonely spotlight. Back then, they'd react to every little thing. They were so cute then… What happened to those cute children I knew?

"Right! It'll be Kakashi's treat!"

At this, the jonin snapped out of his wallowing and refused. "Sorry, I have to create and submit a list of formations of the new teams. So it's good-bye for now." And Poof! He was gone.

"He ran away!"

But his teammate wasn't paying attention. "Hey, Shikamaru! Temari-san!" Sakura called to the people she saw in the crowd. "Who do you think this is?"

"Hey, well if it isn't Naruto!" the genius exclaimed, recognizing the idiot without a moment's hesistation.

"Shikamaru!"

"Did you just come home then?"

"No, I came back yesterday."

"Really? So . . . has any of you idiocy left you?"

"Nope," Sakura said. "He hasn't changed at all!"

"I . . . I see…" Shikamaru said, understanding the girl's statement. After all, who would Naruto be without his stupidity?

"So, anyway, Shikamaru," Naruto bounced right back. "Are you on a date?"

"Ha! You're joking!" Temari laughed. It was the stupidest question she had ever heard. "Why would I go out with him?"—she shook her head—"There's chunin exam soon. I'm just going back and forth between Suna and Konoha for meetings."

"And it's troublesome…" Shikamaru sighed. "Since I'm one of the examiners, I was told to go see off the messengers from Suna."

"A chunin exam, huh?" Naruto asked. "That brings back memories…"

"So . . . what are you going to do, Naruto?" Shikamaru asked. "You're the only one in our class who hasn't become a chunin."

"WHAT?" Naruto's scream could be heard from all the way around the world. "Then . . . then . . ."—he turned to the cherry blossom—"you're a chunin, too, Sakura-chan?"

"Plus, Neji, Kankuro, and Temari here are already jonin." Shikamaru added.

"WHAT?" Naruto could hardly believe his ears. "Wait, then what about Gaara?"

"He's become Kazekage."

"WHAT?"

"Oh, stop screaming, will ya?"

"Itai! Sakura, itai desu!"

Shikamaru groaned. Some things never change, do they?

✿。.:**:.。✿

"Suna has been warned and are preparing." Jiraiya said to Kakashi and Tsunade. "ANBU have been deployed to key points in the outskirts. Even so, I wonder if they'd be able to forcibly stop someone like me from entering the country."

"But why would the Akatsuki start with flashy movements?" Kakashi asked. "What's their objective?"

"I don't know that much. I'm going to go around and investigate some more."

But even with that said, Tsunade couldn't help but worry.

"Daijōbu," Jiraiya reassured her. "They won't get Naruto. I'll make sure of it."

"Yes, I know that… But," the Hokage sighed. "I've been putting off giving Naruto, Sakura, and Kakashi a mission as it would prolong Sakura's staying here. Now that such trouble is going on, I think Sakura would be better off going now than later…"

"Well, what does her mission include?"

"Emptying the Bingo book." The way Tsunade said it, she made it sound like the worst possible thing that could happen to her apprentice.

"What? Such a dangerous and important mission?"

"Yes, the Elders are trying to make sure she won't be returning anytime soon…"

"Is she given a time limit?"

Tsunade shook her head. ". . . No. It's either she has to finish her mission or die trying."

✿。.:*A few days later*:.。✿

"Eh? That mission…? Gee, no thanks!"

"The Hell?" Tsunade asked, pissed off at the idiot. He was the one requesting a damn mission! He should take a what he could get! "What kind of answer is that?"

Please don't talk so selfishly, Naruto… Kakashi thought, fearful of his life. She'll get angry with me, and I don't want that on my head…

Iruka massaged his forehead. Why was it that Naruto had a set of lungs and not brains? "You haven't mentally matured, have you, Naruto?"

"Sorry, Sensei." Sakura said, throwing Naruto into a headlock. "I'll sort him out!" The Hell is wrong with him? Doesn't he know that Tsunade's terribly horrible whenever someone pisses her off?

"The Third was more sensible…" Naruto grumbled, remembering how the old man had switched missions for him.

"What was that?" Tsunade asked, a bit more annoyed with the knucklehead of a ninja. "What did you say?"

"Oh, he was just talking to himself, shisou!" Sakura quickly lied. It would have been bad if Naruto were to end up dead and by the Hokage's hand…

The doors slammed opened then, and an ebony-haired woman ran in. "Hokage-sama, it's bad! It's really bad!"

"What is it, Shizune?" Tsunade asked, wondering lazily what could be the big bad news her assistant was bringing.

"Suna's Kazekage has been taken by the organization called Akatsuki! We just received the message!"

With that said, everyone in the room just stopped what they were doing, their brains just trying to process what just had happened. Gaara . . . Gaara was kidnapped? And by the Akatsuki? Just what was going on? Weren't they after Naruto?

"Right,"—Tsunade was the first to regain herself—"Team Kakashi, I will tell you your first mission… You are immediately to go to Suna, find out the situation, and relay it to Konoha. After that, follow Suna's orders and back them up!"

✿。.:**:.。✿

As Temari stuff herself with a few tasty dango, she stared at the blue sky. She was going home soon, so she might as well rest up. But as she reached for her cup of tea, without even touching it, the cup cracked. Temari stared at the large fracture. She knew it was a bad omen.

I don't believe in this sort of thing, but… She was worried. I've just had a bad premonition… Just what's happened?

✿。.:**:.。✿

"Well, off we go!" Naruto exclaimed, happy as ever that he got an A-rank mission.

"Okay, Tsunade-shisou!" Sakura said. "We're ready!"

Tsunade nodded. "Remember to come see me when you've returned, Sakura."

"Right!"

"Do your best, Naruto!" Iruka wished his favorite student the best of luck.

"Yeah, I will, Iruka-sensei! Just leave it to me!"

But before the team was about to set out…

"Yo!" Jiraiya jumped down from wherever he came from. "Going off on a mission?"

"Yep!" Naruto saluted him.

"But more importantly," Jiraiya walked over to the Hokage, "Something terrible has happened. Suna's Kazekage—"

"Yes, I know." Tsunade said. "I'm about to send these guys off to Suna now."

"But," Jiraiya whispered into her ear, "you do know about the 'thing' between the Akatsuki and Naruto, right?"

When Tsunade gave her firm answer, "Yes," Jiraiya called Naruto over to him. "Be careful when it comes to the Akatsuki!"

"Yeah, I know," the knucklehead said. "They've got something against me so, this time, I'm coming after them."

And in a few minutes, Team Kakashi set off on their mission.

"Worried?" Tsunade asked Iruka who continued to watch as the team grew smaller and smaller as the distance between them and the village grew.

"Nah…" the academy teacher answered. "He isn't the kind of weak shinobi that I should worry about. Sakura, too… Maturity is a weird thing…"

"Yeah…"

✿。.:**:.。✿

"Temari-san!" Sakura exclaimed as she saw the Suna nin in a clearing in front of them.

"You guys…?" the blonde asked. She hadn't expected anyone within miles of her. "What are you doing here?"

"Didn't you hear?" Kakashi asked.

"Hear . . . what?"

"Gaara was kidnapped by the Akatsuki!" Naruto answered.

"What…? Gaara…" Temari cursed under her breath. "I had a bad feeling…" But for her little brother to be abducted like that…

"It'll take three days to reach Suna from here…" Kakashi explained. "Let's get going…"

✿。.:*Upon reaching Suna*:.。✿

"The . . . the White Fang!" the old lady gasped, and she went in for the kill.

But luckily, Naruto fended her off before she could wring her wrinkly hands around Kakashi's neck.

"Why are you going at Kakashi-sensei so suddenly for?" Naruto yelled at her. There was no way in Hell that he'd let his sensei be taken out! And certainly not by the likes of an old hag!

"I remember that time…" the old lady said, ever-so dramatically. "That White Fang…! My son's enemy . . . I will get my revenge for him today!"

"Ah! No," Kakashi said, his hands out in front of him defensively. He didn't blame the lady for confusing him with his late dad, but really! To attack him in the open? Oh god, really? "I'm not—"

"There's no use arguing!"

But at that point, an old man held out his hand to stop all this madness. "Sister, take a good look." he said. "There's a strong resemblance, but he isn't the White Fang."

And then the old hag started crackling! "I was just pretending to be stupid!" she said, leaving everyone to their respective thoughts.

✿。.:*after Kankuro gets medical treatment because I'm too lazy to type this out*:.。✿

"I don't think there's any need to worry about his life anymore," Sakura said, wiping her forehead. The jutsu she had used really was something… It had taken almost all of her chakra. "I've directly removed the poison."

Temari fell to her butt and let out a relieved sigh. Her brother was safe, thank god…

"Now I have to make an antidote for the little bit of poison left in his body," Sakura explained, "so we can't relax yet. Please gather the ingredients I say!"

Sakura-chan… Naruto thought, looking at his teammate with new respect. He knew that she had trained under Tsunade, but really . . . You're great!

"You're a lot like that slug woman…" Old Lady Chiyo said. "That a girl like you would come…"

"Well, it's because Tsunade-sama's my mentor." Sakura replied.

"Sister," the old man said, "Time is really flowing by us…"

✿。.:*Okay we know what happens so let's skip to after Sakura punches the boulder, after the battles, to Sasori's death*:.。✿

"I won't be able to move much longer," the puppet master said. "Before that, I'll do something pointless for you . . . a reward . . . for defeating me. You wanted to know about Orochimaru, didn't you? Go to the Tenchi Bridge in the Grass Village, at noon . . . two months from now."

"What do you mean?" Sakura asked.

"I have a spy in Orochimaru's subordinates… I was . . . supposed to meet him there…"

✿。.:*To when Chiyo exchanges her life to save Gaara's*:.。✿

"Bring him back?" Naruto asked as the old woman continued her forbidden jutsu. "Can you really do that?"

"This jutsu is Chiyo-sama's alone…" Sakura answered, her eyes sad.

But in a few seconds, the old woman started trembling. She soon began to cough. "Damn…! Not enough . . . chakra!"

"Then please use mine!"

Her eyes widened at the blonde shinobi.

"Old Lady, can you do that?"

She smiled a small bit before nodding her head. "Put your hands on top of mine."

Naruto did as she asked, and the old lady began taking his chakra to complete her jutsu. "I am glad," she began to say, "that someone like you appeared in this world of shinobi that we old people created. In the past, everything I did was a mistake… But at the very end, it looks like I was able to do the right thing… Suna and Konoha . . . their futures are differing from our past…" She smiled. "What Kakashi said about your mysterious power, that power may change the future… Become Hokage unlike any before…

"And Sakura… Do not risk your life for an old hag next time… Save that which is important to you… You are a lot like me… There are not many women with chivalrous spirits matching those of men. You may become a kunoichi surpassing your own master…

"Naruto, a request from an old hag… You are the only one who knows Gaara's pain… And he knows yours… Help him out…"

✿。.:**:.。✿

"Chiyo-sama of Suna died in the line of duty," Shizune said, reading the status report to the Hokage. "And thus, the Kazekage returned safely. Team Gai and Team Kakashi have completed their mission without a hitch and plan to return to Konoha after three days."

"Got it…"

"Anoo…" The black haired woman seemed hesitant to speak. "Tsunade-sama?"

"What is it?"

"Although it worked well for this mission, was it truly a good idea to send Naruto, a jinchūriki, to those people known as the Akatsuki?" Shizune questioned Tsunade's motives. "Even though Hatake Kakashi was with them, why would you take that much of a risk with Naruto?"

"Just that, because he is a jinchūriki," Tsunade answered smugly. "The only person who can understand a jinchūriki is a jinchūriki… Furthermore, he has a mysterious power… Everyone starts to believe in him."

The idiot… She remembered how he got her to believe… He was so reckless… Going up against Kabuto, Orochimaru's right-hand man… How could he do such a thing? And for her? Some old lady? Why, he didn't know who he was lying down the line for! She chuckled at the memory. Sometimes, she wondered if he'd really make a good Hokage someday, always trying to be the hero and saving everyone… Even savying those he didn't know!

"But . . . with that said, the Akatsuki might now know that Sakura was a bond with Naruto…" Shizune said. "And once she returns, the Elders will send her off on that mission. What if the Akatsuki—"

"I only argued with the Elders because I didn't want her to partake in such a mission…" Tsunade explained. "She's so young… For her hands to be bloodied with so many victims…"—she shook her head—"I do not want to see that. However, I do believe that she's strong enough to carry out such a mission. If not, her training was for nothing then… I do not want to see her off, knowing that she'd either die or will be unable to return home until she's finished her mission… She's a like a daughter to me… I'll see to it that she'll be able to return home, regardless of her mission status."

Shizune's worry diminished a bit. She had come to see Sakura like a younger sister. When she heard of the Elder's decision, she was more than shocked—more than worried. But at least, she wouldn't be the only one praying for the cherry blossom…

"But then, what about Naruto's team?" Shizune asked. "He'll need an able kunoichi to assist him."

The old blonde smirked. "That… I'll leave up to Sakura. I think she has someone in mind, a certain Hyuga heiress I believe…"


Chirin~chirin = [sound of bells]

Daijōbu = don't worry

Itai = ow; ouch

Itai desu = that hurts

Niichan = older brother (or friend who's like an older brother)

Yay! This chapter is finished, and it only took me about two to three minutes tops! Hee-hee! Thank you and please review!