Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Playing For Keeps ❯ Chapter 1 ( Chapter 1 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]

The office was cluttered, with bingo books and mission reports scattered about. Medical books were dog-eared and bookmarked, signaling pages that had vital information on them. She'd been in the office countless times, but each return trip showed her something new. A new crack on the wall, a new book on a chair, a new mission to be carried out.
Tsunade leaned back in her chair, her arms folded across her large chest. Her face had aged a little over the years, but still held the determined look it was known for.
“I have a mission for the 6 of you. It is a delicate, time-consuming mission. There is a significant possibility you won't come back alive,” she began without preamble.
Sakura continued to listen, no emotions crossing her face. She'd heard those words before, and, if she returned, would probably hear them again.
Shizune, standing beside the Hokage, handed each of the jounin a paper, outlining the mission. The paper was sparse, only a few words gracing the scroll.
Tsunade continued. “This is a classified mission. You're to tell no one about this, including your families and other ninjas of the village. Tomorrow at dawn you will depart from Konoha and head northeast, to the Lightning Country. You're assignment is to take out Lord Sankyuu, and collapse the foundation out from underneath his organization. He has been trafficking children and women as slaves, often kidnapping them from their homes in the middle of the night. Over the past year he has been able to amass a vast army of outcasts, missing-nins, and criminals, and his eyes have turned to Konoha recently, citing revenge as a motive. Revenge for what? I don't know, but he has become an increasing threat since the fall of the Akatsuki 5 years ago.”
The Hokage looked out the nearby window, her eyes scanning over the lands she protected and led. “He is very dangerous. His fingers reach into the political pies of many countries, and he has many allies within those circles. It's not common knowledge, but he's already taken out a great deal of Konoha ninja over the past year. This is why you must succeed at all costs.”
The room was silent, until Naruto spoke up.
“And if we fail?” he asked.
The Gondaime closed her eyes, and set her elbows on the desk, her chin resting on top of her folded hands. “Then we are doomed. Konoha will fall without its ninja.”
Sakura was taken aback. She'd heard whisperings about Sankyuu, it was hard not to when you worked so closely with the Hokage, but had he really become that strong?
Kakashi, who stood beside her, sighed, then rolled up his paper and stuffed it in a pocket. He'd only recently returned from another difficult mission, a solo one, and had barely escaped with his life. While he'd love to have time off to read the latest installment of the Icha Icha series, he knew that the trafficker would have to be taken out first.
After adding a few more details, Tsunade dismissed the six of them, giving them time to prepare. As they walked out, Sakura surveyed the group. Kakashi, her former sensei and friend; Naruto, who was like a brother to her; Shikamaru, lazy but brilliant; Neji, the prodigy; and Kiba and Akamaru, ready to take on anything that came their way. They would be her family and her companions until the end. And then there was she.
Sakura Haruno, the talented medic kunoichi and possessor of super-human strength.
The group had done missions together before, and with any luck, they'd do them again.
“So, how long do you think this will take?” asked Naruto. “I really don't want to stay away from Ichiraku for long.”
Shikamaru rolled his eyes. “Will you ever grow up, Naruto?”
The man in question grinned and laughed. “Hell no! What's the fun in that? Growing up means that you have to be serious, and that means that you have to become boring, like old Kakashi here,” he joked.
He earned a hurt look from Kakashi's direction. “I'm not THAT old,” he said defensively. “34 is the new 20.”
Naruto and Kiba laughed aloud, gasping for breath. “You think 34's young?” Kiba sputtered, attempting to contain himself.
Kakashi promptly ignored the guffawing idiots, and pulled Icha Icha from his vest, continuing towards his apartment. Sakura, Shikamaru and Neji walked with him. “34 isn't old, Kakashi-sensei. Age doesn't really mean anything. You are however old you feel,” said Sakura.
Then I must be ancient, thought Kakashi.
“Sakura, how many times have I told you not to call me sensei? I stopped being your teacher a long time ago,” said the half-masked ninja.
She frowned, unable to come up with a response. It was true, he hadn't taught her in 8 years, but she'd never thought to drop the suffix.
No one said anything again until they reached Sakura's home. She lived alone these days, her parents having been killed during an attack on the village a few years back. She'd never sold the family home, but instead kept it and the memories as a reminder of the things she fought for.
She turned to the others, and said, “Well, I'll see you all at dawn. Sleep well.” The others said goodnight to her as she walked away, but she didn't reply. Her thoughts had trailed off to a time when, years ago, Kakashi had still been her sensei. As she unlocked her door, and stepped inside, her mind was pondering why she still called him that. Was it because that's what she'd first known him as? No, he hadn't even really taught her all that much. Maybe it was more that she admired him, and didn't think herself to be on a level as high as he.
Walking into her bedroom, she pulled a bag from underneath her bed and began to pack for the mission. Most of what she needed was already pre-packed, but a few essentials, such as civilian clothes, needed to be added.
Once completed, she began to strip, leaving a trail of clothes on the way to the bathroom. She turned on the shower, and set the water to scolding, knowing that it would probably be the last hot shower she got for awhile.
As she lathered her body in soap, Sakura took the time to think about the mission. They hadn't had any warning, so something must have happened. A threat, maybe? Or did the Hokage feel that things were simply becoming too risky, and wanted to take out Orochimaru before he had the chance to do anything? Whatever the reason, if they failed, then Orochimaru would come after Konoha. And what about Sasuke?
The last she'd heard, he was still alive, biding his time to kill Orochimaru himself. Why? She wasn't sure, but she had the feeling that Orochimaru had betrayed him. Big surprise there, she thought sarcastically.
Turning off the water, she stepped from the tub and grabbed a towel, wrapping it around her body. She'd matured since she had first become a gennin and not it just knowledge and strength. Her body was curvier, and filled out on all the right spots. While she wasn't as busty as Ino, she still looked pretty good.
Sakura left the bathroom, picking up her trail of clothes and tossing them by the foot of her bed. She pulled underwear and a tank top from her dresser, and slipped them on.
Her eyelids began to get heavy, and her mind was becoming sluggish. Sliding beneath the sheets, she curled up in bed, snuggling into a pillow, and slept deeply, dead to the world.
*~*~*~*~*~ Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or any affiliated items or characters ~*~*~*~*~*~*
Jan 12, 2009 A/N: I know, I know, I promised I'd update a long time ago. What can I say? I'm lazy + busy; most definitely not a good combo. In any case, I've re-worked the chapter to fit more with the canon storyline, seeing as how Orochimaru hasn't been around in awhile and such. Some of it still won't quite jive with the actual manga, but that's too damn bad. I'm re-working the next chapter, then posting it and chapter three. I'll try and be more consistent. Just keep bugging me and I'll get to it at some point.