Dash to the Land of milk
Chapter one: Caravan’s, arguing and boats.
Hot like a flash of lightning then gone again was how she felt when he was nearby. Disabling her in the wake of nostalgia which followed when ever she was around this arrogant yet handsome man. Painful yet sweet was the torture she went through each day knowing that he would never notice her even with her pink hair making a scene every where she went. When she was younger the pain seemed to ebb on forever but it eventually started to lessen as she grew older.
Even though they were on the same squad he clearly didn't notice her even when she healed him the raven haired man's attention was elsewhere. Yet Sakura endured it each day gladly just to know he was happy now that everything had been resolved. Although it was like this every day Sakura stayed mainly because she had no where else to go but she did wonder what if? What if there was another land willing to accept her without trying to make use of her abilities where she could live as a civilian? What if Sasuke finally noticed her after all this time and was willing to love her as she loved him? What if was a question posed to often in Sakura's mind for her tastes yet it kept popping up all the same like a weed which didn't have the decency to eradicate itself. What made it worse was her loveable goofball friend Naruto who always had something uplifting to say even when all she wanted to do was crawl back in bed with a bottle of imported sake and a bit of chocolate. Of course this situation wouldn't have presented itself if two years ago Sasuke hadn't decided to stop being a defector and returned to The village hidden in the Leaves. It didn't help that something went wrong every time Sakura was around the fearless wonder either.
Sakura stood in wait with Naruto as they waited for their late Sensei Kakashi and the overly aggressive Uchiha. Sakura had to hold back tears as Naruto went on about how much fun he had over the weekend with Sasuke. It was very hard for Sakura to have any fun since people like Neji who she had trained with and even engaged in missions with were dead. Besides the original three members of squad seven the only people to survive the great ninja war were TenTen, Shikamaru and Shino. Of course some deaths affected her more than others like Lee's, since his death she couldn't even be in the same room with TenTen without feeling guilty because she chose to be on Naruto's squad during one of the civilian disputes which arose after the great war was settled. The death of the others had inspired more different behaviour besides not being able to see TenTen like the fact that every once in a while she would hang out with Shikamaru to talk about how Ino was when she doing a mission. But Sakura had stopped that recently mostly because she knew she couldn't hold onto the dead forever. It all became irrelevant once Kakashi arrived with Sasuke in tow who was holding what looked like a jewellery box. Sasuke opened the engraved wooden box to reveal a shimmering blue diamond the size of a fist "Who could afford something like this? Wait don't tell me the Hokage dug up something from her grandfathers estate to pay off her gambling debts again" Sakura's words of tired anguish didn't seem to evoke a response from either Kakashi Sensei or Sasuke "I didn't realise it was ignore Sakura day! I say we dump it in the river to teach the Hokage a lesson" Sakura showed Naruto her appreciation with a smile then moved to the railing of the bridge "Actually Naruto this diamond is an engagement gift from the Prince of the land of Honey, our mission is to deliver it to the Princess of the land of Milk then to guard the Princess until the wedding is over. The mission should take about four weeks" Naruto started to rant on about how boring this mission was going to be like he always did while Sakura started to walk off "Where do you think you're going?" Sakura didn't know what surprised her more the malice in Sasuke's voice or that fact that he finally spoke to her after two years "To pack what else is there to do?" Sasuke shrugged then went back to conversing with Kakashi while Naruto slapped him on the back of the head for being rude to her which Sakura actually giggled at.
Even with the thick winter coat encasing her torso Sakura was freezing sitting next to the fire while waiting for the caravan to arrive. Naruto chivalrously offered Sakura his coat but she couldn't take it in good conscious. So instead they hovered even closely to the fire just as the caravan rode in. Kakashi greeted the man at the front holding the reigns while Sasuke got in first. Naruto in another chivalrous act stepped aside so Sakura go could in before him. Once Sakura stepped inside she saw how deceivingly small and cramped the place was "There seems to be only two free carts looks like we'll have to bunk together" Sakura found it rather disturbing that she would have to share a room with a male but she had no choice and she knew instantly who she wanted to be paired with "Naruto and I will take the next cart over while you and Kakashi bunker down here" Sakura barely made it to the connector door before he spoke "I guess women like you only have one thing on their mind" It happened so fast that Sakura wasn't able to stop Naruto slugging Sasuke right in the nose but she was able to get a good enough hold on Naruto to pull him into the next cart. Sakura immediately started to lecture Naruto about hitting people especially since she could hit them herself. Eventually Sakura stopped then laid down on a pile of blankets near the left side of the cart. Sakura undid the straps on the thin sleeping bag rolled up on top of her travel bag then placed it on the ground next to Naruto who was doing the same thing "I'm sorry for what Sasuke said I don't know why he said it but I'm sure he didn't mean it... Well I'm sure he deserved the punch I threw in his face" Sakura giggled for the second time that day then got inside the sleeping bag "I don't really feel mad at Sasuke for what he said, what I do feel is confusion. Why did he say that vile comment? I'd truly convinced myself that since he left the village that he no longer had emotions. Because of that this question keeps bugging me all the time. Why did he come back? I think I even hate him for coming back" Naruto laid there silently as he absorbed what Sakura said "I guess I was just so happy that he finally came back from the darkness of Orochimaru that I didn't think about how it would make others feel to have him back" Sakura gave off a sympathetic look then kissed Naruto gently on the cheek "It's alright I know how much it means to you to have Sasuke back" Sakura rolled over on her stomach so she was comfortable enough to sleep "I could always learn to hate Sasuke if that's what you want" Naruto's jovial remark made the situation a lot less tense just as Sakura went to sleep.
When they woke up the first thing Kakashi talked about was the fight last night. Kakashi went on to scold them for behaving like the children he met all those years ago. Sakura didn't know what Sasuke was thinking but after the conversation she knew Naruto was on the same wave link so she just let the whole incident go. To drive his point home Kakashi stationed Sakura and Sasuke on top of the first caravan cart to take the first watch. That still didn't alleviate the tension in the air as Sakura sat there looking through her binoculars for signs of attack while Sasuke kept pacing up and down all ten caravan carts. Sasuke finally stopped pacing around lunch when Sakura got out two bento boxes. Sasuke slowly approached the bento box with what seemed like suspicion "You don't seem to be in a better mood which is surprising" Sakura started to chew her food even slower than usual as she tried to figure out if he was continuing last nights insult or just trying to start a conversation "What do you mean by that? I can't say there's much to be happy about" Sasuke snickered at Sakura as if she was beneath her like he used to when the squad first formed "Really you fucked Naruto then pretend that it's nothing, slut! Well that answer’s the question of why it was so quiet last night” Sakura smiled a very conceded smile then in a fit of rage pushed Sasuke off the caravan cart then went back to her lunch "Hey Sakura why is Sasuke flailing under the caravan wheels?" The mystified voice of Kakashi snapped Sakura out of her rage filled thoughts. As she pondered what to say next the caravan came to a stop and Kakashi appeared on top of the caravan cart "Sakura I think you should go back to your cart while I finish the watch with Sasuke" Sakura got up took a small bow then went back to her cart to finish her lunch but not before giving a snide look of her own to Sasuke who was laying on the ground with wheel marks all over him. Sakura quickly dashed into the cart with a clueless Naruto sipping down on some ramen he snuck in "How did you get that past Kakashi?" Naruto slurped down the last bit of noodle on his chop-stick then smiled at Sakura "I waited until he got real absorbed in his special book then ran to the nearest town. I also picked up some pork buns for you Sakura" She took the case of freshly cooked buns then started to chew on them very slowly. After polishing off the last pork bun Sakura gave a detailed account of what happened on top of the caravan cart then waited for Naruto's reaction. Naruto paused for what seemed like forever then burst out laughing "Wow he really has lost his mind. Serves Sasuke right but next time let me push him off" Sakura tugged on her shirt then snickered a bit "Well by midday tomorrow we'll be on a boat to the land of Milk then it'll be three more days of travelling via the Princess's royal carriage" Naruto sighed in annoyance then groaned with pain as if the travel time was literally hurting him which made her lean over his laid out body then Sakura realised he was having a stomach ache from eating his food too fat as he often did "Do you think Sasuke can swim?" Sakura was puzzled at first then she realised that he was making a reference to the jovial conversation which took place a few minutes ago "Don't worry about it I'm sure his Uchiha lineage will impress the sharks and other flesh eating creatures in the sea" They both shared in a bout of energetic laughter. When they finally came out of their laughing fit Sakura noticed that her face was hanging only a few centimetres above Naruto's. Several things crossed her mind in the span of a second but the dominant thought was that his face looked the same upside down. Sakura started to stare as if not knowing what to do next. The first one to act was Naruto by moving his upwards so his lips connected to hers, his lips were strangely warm and slightly wet. It took a moment for Sakura to realise that Naruto was kissing her. It was unexpected for Sakura even though she knew Naruto liked her she never knew he would act so freely. Sakura pulled back from the kiss and his body completely then covered her mouth with her hand "I'm sorry I know you don't feel the same way about me" Sakura was about to say something but Kakashi and Sasuke burst through the adjoining cart then opened the connector door "Looks like we've hit a snag. The bridge which leads to the port has collapsed which means we'll have to grab our stuff walk down the slope on this side of the bridge then scale the other side" Naruto let out a loud groan like before then packed up his things without complaint along with Sakura.
It took longer than they expected to reach the bottom of the slope so all four of them had to set up camp near the base of the other half of what remained of the bridge. It took about an hour to set up. It took so long because the ground was still soft from the rain that occurred a couple of days ago. So Sakura being the only female in the group was assigned to cooking dinner like she always was which at the moment annoyed her. What made it worse was that Sasuke was staring at her from across the fire with daggers in his eyes while Kakashi was sitting in the nearest tree reading one of his special books and Naruto said something about needing time to think and took off. Sakura reckoned that it might be because she and Sasuke were fighting or more disturbingly because of the kiss. Sakura still hadn't figured out what it meant to her and she was terrified of hurting Naruto's feelings with whatever reaction she came up with. Sakura started to think that maybe it was best to forget the whole thing at least until she figured out what it meant. It was that moment Sasuke let out a small snarl that made Sakura jump "Could you cook any slower?" Sakura couldn't help but roll her eyes at this "Well if you want to get food poisoning I'd be more than happy to give you your dinner now" Sasuke got up from his place across the fire with his fists balled up "Stop acting like the annoying brat you always were I'm tired of it" Sakura in a burst of rage knocked the pot onto the ground spilling all of it's contents onto the rock floor "Really well I'm tired of looking at all the sad faces in Konoha, all those people who lost the ones they loved. And you know what I think? I think your a self absorbed arrogant little shit who should have done us all a favour and died instead of them. It's your fault they're dead!" The expression in his eyes changed in an instant as if for the first time in his life he realised it wasn't all about him "You're right but I can't change that now any more than you can change being a slut" Sakura instantly slapped him in the face without giving it any thought. For one moment it seemed like he had changed into a human being but he just turned out to be more insulting "Sasuke somebody should have told you this a long time ago but even though this wont change who you are or how you act I'm going to tell you any way. Just shut up you self indulgent prick nobody cares what you think and the only thing you have to offer is good looks which will fade with time" Sakura couldn't believe that Naruto was standing up for her again which made her cry "I'm sorry I didn't mean what I said I've just been like this since one of my co-workers at the hospital died" It was a lie but she couldn't stand Naruto being torn between two friends even if one of them was a self absorbed arse hole. Sakura didn't bother to look up as she cleaned up the spilled food then went into the tent to go to bed "I'll go get some fish from the river" Sasuke ran down to the river leaving Naruto to slump down on to one of the logs they had been using to sit on "That was quite a show but at least I know the whole story now" Naruto was startled by Kakashi who was still sitting in the tree above the tent "Since when did you start paying attention? No offence Kakashi sensei but it's more complicated then either one of them will say" Kakashi gave off a huff of laughter then jumped down from the tree "I know exactly what's going on. Sakura is afraid of hurting you because she can't stand the sight of Sasuke while simultaneously Sasuke is under the impression that Sakura is using you to get back at him and is trying to stop her. In other words both of them are trying to protect you without concern for what they might do to themselves. What's worse is that you've picked Sakura's side not that she's not right but it makes her feel guilty for causing a rift between you two and Sasuke feels like he's not doing a proper job as your friend because you keep running after Sakura whom he thinks is using you as I said before" Naruto took in what Kakashi said then realised that he was right and started to feel incredibly guilty. Naruto decided to have a talk with both of them to help straighten this whole situation out, he headed down to the river knowing Sasuke really needed to be properly filled in. If after talking about what's really going on and he's not getting it Naruto will definitely slug Sasuke in the face.
Sakura was awoken just before four in the morning by someone touching her softly, she reckoned it was Naruto which she didn't mind all to much but when she turned around and saw Sasuke she almost jumped out of her skin "What are you doing?" Sasuke instantly covered her mouth with his hand "Not so loud you'll wake them" Sakura was genuinely confused. Sasuke had a smile on his face which confused Sakura even more as she removed his hand from her mouth "Please just go back to sleep we have a lot of hiking to do today" Sakura was about to roll back onto her stomach when Sasuke came at her, his pursed lips were only a short distance away and even though this was a moment she had dreamed of since she first met him there was no way Sakura was going to let this happen now so she did the only thing she could in that situation and pushed him onto the adjacent sleeping bag "Good night Sasuke" Sasuke looked surprised as Sakura crawled back into her sleeping bag. So puzzled was he by her reaction that Sasuke left the tent.
After two days of solid walking they arrived at the port town of Hill-Bright where they boarded a large sailing vessel. After boarding they were directed by guards to a sitting room where they still waited for whom ever it was they were to meet. From what Sakura could tell everyone seemed nervous even the always stoic Sasuke who gazed out the boat window. Sakura herself was nervous too but it was more because Naruto was sitting right next to her with the usual smile on his face even after the fight a few days ago. Sakura wondered what Naruto was thinking now, was he thinking of her? The opportunity to get Naruto alone had not yet presented itself so Sakura hadn't been able to discuss how she feels about all this to him. This made it even more painful to be around him. The bang of the door against the wall made Sakura come out of the mental overdrive her mind was in. In walked a girl no older than sixteen with long natural blonde hair which was done up in several plaits. Sakura's eyes travelled downward to the extravagant Kimono which just screamed spoiled princess "Hello I'm Jinhime princess of the land of milk. For the next three weeks you'll be at my beck and call as guards should be" Naruto dropped the usual smile which adorned his face and replaced it with the I'm about to punch the client look which Sakura had gotten used to since their first real mission where they had to guard Tazuna the bridge builder. It was something Sakura had gotten used to so she knew how to handle it but this time she didn't do anything to stop him. Of course the princess just scoffed at his behaviour then scared the crap out of everybody by screaming "I thought I requested a female squad! How am I supposed to deal with oafish men?" The man behind her who Sakura guessed was an attendant bent down on his knee as if praying for the princess to stop "Princess you have to understand that requesting such things isn't always possible and look the squad does have one female" The princess looked at Sakura then squealed "Fantastic your cabin will be next to mine so I can call on you whenever. We'll have so much fun together" Sakura put on a fake smile and held back the need to gag as she heard what the princess said. The princess then grabbed Sakura's hand and started to run down the hall, the boys and Kakashi along with the attendant trailed behind them. The princess gabbed on while Sakura produced a mental block around her ear's to drown out the noise.
It was relaxing for Sakura to finally be in her bed after the day she had. It was truly exhausting being the princess's personal pet for the day. Sakura wondered how she was going to survive the next twenty four hours let alone the next few days. She started to remember Naruto's idea of pushing Sasuke off the ship but replaced him with Princess Jinhime. A splashing sound from the deck arose Sakura from her reverie, she ran to the vicinity of the splashing sound. Sakura ended up at the railing on the side of the ship, she stared Sasuke down as he stood on the railing smiling. Looking down she saw Naruto trying to swim to the ship "Really you pushed him over? I thought you had more sense than that Sasuke" Right on queue Sasuke turned around with that classic smirk on his face "He tried to push me off first I just got the jump on him" Sakura had to control her urge to strangle him right there but instead she opted to jump off the ship and help Naruto who wasn't that much of a swimmer in this kind of strong current. Sakura got onto the railing then jumped off like a diver and swam along the water to Naruto's struggling body on the surface.
All three of them got yelled at for a long time by Kakashi then Kakashi got yelled at by Princess Jinhime for raising such a ruckus which put him in an even fouler mood. So after that they barely had the strength to walk to bed. Sakura was about to climb into the warm embrace of the quilt just when a knock on the door was heard, she cursed under her breath at whoever would consider knocking on her door after an exhausting day. As her hand turned the knob which opened the door Sakura caught a glimpse of spiky Blonde hair and was no longer mad "What's up Naruto?" A smile graced his lips which in her current state melted Sakura's heart. It was kind of cheesy but there was no point in denying she liked Naruto obviously they wouldn't be friends otherwise but how much she liked him was still a mystery to her she just knew that she couldn't get along without him "Well since Kakashi fell asleep I thought we could talk without someone else butting in" Sakura ushered him in to the room. It was weird having a boy in her room even if it was a temporary one "So what's up? The full of hope look in Naruto’s eyes which everyone knew all too well seemed dimmed at least it did to Sakura and she felt somewhat guilty because of it yet she kept on smiling as to not spoil the mood. Sakura got worried after a few minutes without a word so she decided to be the first to speak even though it would be beyond uncomfortable “Look if this is about the kiss the other night I haven’t exactly made up my mind about how I feel yet but I will have an answer for you soon” At first a smile spread wide across his face then for a few seconds he covered his mouth with his hands then the flood damn broke and a roaring bout of laughter emerged. Although she didn’t know why he was doing it Sakura joined in the laughter until both of them were nearly out of breath “You don’t have to spare my feelings I can handle it if you truly don’t feel the same way” Sakura thought about what he said pondering if her inability to make a decision was because she was trying to subconsciously protect him “I’m sorry I’m not sure what my answer is truly” Sakura was about to say something then she realised what was really going on “There is no way that Naruto could ever be quiet for more than a minute! So what did you think you would accomplish Sasuke?” A smirk graced his lips then he changed back into himself still smirking “Just trying to prove a point that you don’t feel anything for him except maybe annoyance. I’m not going to let you hurt Naruto” Sakura was in the right mind to beat the crap out of him but she took a deep breath then let it go for now for the sake of the mission at hand “Get out of my room you’re not welcome here ever!” Sasuke shrugged then got up from his spot on the bed “Look I don’t want to be going on like this for the rest of my life so if you tell Naruto the real truth I will leave you alone about all this” The look on his face surprised Sakura so much that once he passed her door and was in the open hall just standing there she kissed Sasuke lightly on the cheek “You’re a good friend to Naruto but I won’t let you pull me into this tug-of-war over him so please believe me when I say I don’t want to hurt him” Sasuke was slightly shocked he thought for a second that Sakura was telling the truth but then he dismissed it as her being a good liar. Hanging his head he turned his body right to walk back on deck and what he saw was Naruto carrying a bowl of ramen in one hand and a bowl of hard candy in the other (obviously stolen from the kitchen as the chef would have retired to his cabin two hours ago) Sasuke knew how it looked and decided to make the most of it “I’m sorry that you had to find out like this Naruto but Sakura and I have been together for a few weeks we just didn’t want anyone to know because of the way everyone back home still feels about me, we pretended to argue so everything would seem normal but we realised we took it too far and for that we apologise” Sasuke wrapped his arm around the waist of a gobsmacked Sakura so shocked she couldn’t speak. Naruto paused for a moment looking at his food while trying to figure out what to say then raised his head with a light of fire in his eyes “It’s okay I get it and I’m happy for you both just please don’t fight anymore especially for my sake” It was like a knife had gone through Sakura’s chest ripping out all her innards along the way, she wanted to say something but the whole situation had rendered silent and even if she could speak it would mean going against Naruto’s request not to fight. So Sakura did the only thing she could and kept her mouth shut while staying perfectly still even as Sasuke kissed her forehead “Goodnight sweetheart” It was the last words she heard for the rest of the boat ride.
They finally arrived in the port of Kjuuma the capital of the Land of Honey after two weeks at sea, even after unloading everything into the Princess’s royal carriage nobody but Kakashi spoke a single word and that was mostly orders coupled with the occasional is everyone alright? Even so Sakura felt exhausted by it all and tried to rest in an adjacent carriage but an unexpected person decided to intrude on her solitude. Sakura was more surprised he was even willing to be near her yet here Sasuke was sitting right up close next to her “I’m grateful that you were willing to give up this game so easily I honestly thought you would put up more of a fight maybe even try to convince Naruto that I’m an evil master mind who plotted out this whole fiasco” Sakura just sighed without feeling “Well you can’t quit in the middle of a mission any way” Sasuke was confused after all it seemed she had given up the game so what could she be going on about? “What are you talking about? Do you think of Naruto as your own personal mission?” Sasuke was starting to worry “No I mean once we get home I’m not going to be a ninja anymore in fact I’m leaving the village hell I’ll even be leaving the Land of fire” All previous thoughts had left Sasuke’s mind and now it was whirling with confused thoughts trying to reason with what Sakura just said “Sakura that’s insane leaving the Leaf village is one thing but leaving the Land will brand you a deserter, a criminal you can’t do it! Do you realise that once you do this you can’t be a ninja here any more let alone come back home ever!” Sakura looked out into the distance presented by the carriage window like nothing had been said, this went on for a while as Sasuke sat there wondering what he could say or do to change her mind “Let the Anbu Black Ops come I know how to hide… Even if they find me I’ll make sure none of them will be able to report back to the Hokage” Sasuke looked into her glassy green eyes which seemed to be devoid of all life and did the first thing that came to mind, he grabbed the hair on the back of her head and crushed his lips against Sakura’s. Everyone knew this is what Sakura had wanted since they were kids and even though since he came back it was obvious that she had discarded that dream Sasuke thought this was the thing to do to get her to stay. So for a while they stayed like this lips pressed together with his hand coursing through her hair.